Tuesday, August 15, 2006

His Name Is Earle...

"Bruce Springsteen may have been the "consummate chronicler of welfare-line blues," writes Lauren St. John, "but Steve Earle lived the life."

Alt-country rock pioneer, hardcore troubadour, rebellious without a cause turned rebel with a cause...Steve Earle, in my opinion, is one of the finest songwriters America has ever produced. An artist in the truest sense of the word - a passionate performer and activist who not only stands up for what he believes....he makes damn fine music (even if he's on his seventh marriage).

This is admittedly a bit of a gush post. I was a moderate fan of his early albums - 'Guitartown', 'Exit O', 'The Hard Way' - but then Earle's addictions caught up with him and he was sent to jail. And like most people, I figured he was done and gone. And then he emerged from prison and rehab and latched his claws into me big-time with five straight cd's: 'Train A Coming', 'I Feel Alright', 'El Corazon' , 'The Mountain' and 'Transcendental Blues'. Those last three were recorded over both sides of a cassette I took down with me to LA when looking for a place to live. It never came out of the rental car tape deck for nearly two months.

"I have spent most of my life (like most people) avoiding transcendence at all costs, mainly because the shit hurts. Merely defining transcendence can sometimes be painful. I once heard that "Transcendence is the act of going through something". Ouch. I see plate glass windows and divorces. Someone else told me that it was "rising above whatever one encountered in one's path" but at this point in my life that smacks of avoidance as well as elitism of some sort. I am compelled to look back on years of going through, above, as well as around my life looking for loopholes to redefine everything including any and all of the ideas that I have held close to my heart along the way - Art - Freedom - Justice - Revolution - Love (a big one) - Growth - Passion - Parenting (a really big one) - and I find that for me, for now, transcendence is about being still enough long enough to know when it's time to move on. Fuck me." — Steve Earle (Chicago, January 2000)

Anyway, Earle played Buttkick this weekend - courtesy of the local folk festival.

In front of several thousand people, Earle (sans the Dukes) took the stage armed only with his six string and his harmonica...and immediately launched into three early hits - 'I Ain't Ever Satisfied', 'Someday', and 'My Old Friend The Blues' - with little more than a "thanks" uttered between each unplugged gem....I was so there, but a little confused.

Where was the angry opinionated man from 'Just An American Boy? The politically minded activist who, along with Neil Young, has been one of the most outspoken artists about America and the current administration. The man whose last cd was the provocative and powerful "The Revolution Starts Now'.

Well, he was just easing into it, as it were.

And as he plowed through song after song, eventually the stories began to flow freely, and his edgey opinions started to emerge. There were even some pokes at Canadian Prime Minister Harper - Earle knows his politics. I don't necessarily agree with everything he has to say, but I sure respect Earle for not being afraid to say it...either as between tune banter, or with songs like 'Billy Austin', 'John Walker's Blues', and his closer, 2002's 'Jerusalem'...

"I woke up this mornin'
And none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin'
'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me
that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say
And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find
That I believe that one fine day
all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem"

Even the drunk fan at the back constantly yelling "...play Copperhead Road!" finally shut up during this eeriely prophetic number --- capping off a truly memorable evening of appealing music with a message.

Kind of like an entertaining movie or tv show that is also able to make you think...an important thing to always be striving for, no matter what you're creating.

SONG & ARTIST? - "I was born my papa's son
A wanderin' eye and a smokin' gun
Now some of you would live through me
Lock me up and throw away the key
Or just find a place to hide away
Hope that I'll just go away..."


The Film Diva said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Will! I'm always worried that I'm boring folks by being so dang bossy.

And I did have a lot of folks stopping by my office in those days...hopefullly no one puts THOSE stories on the internet! :-)

Crashdummie said...

Wow, that was.. wow... (me being speechless - guess there's a first time for everything)

I totally have to check out his songs cuz he seems deep. Even if you don’t always share the same opinion, it feels good to know that there still are ppl out there brave enough to actually have one and to stand by them...

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna check out some of those albums.

wcdixon said...

Well if you are really interested, this 2 cd Best Of set gives a nice overview of Earle's pre '95 material...


And 'Just An American Boy', a live 2 cd set from 2003 gives a decent overview of his more contemporary material...


And everything inbetween is a keeper in my books...

Callaghan said...

First, the mystery song: "I Feel Alright" by Mr. Earle himself.

I'm with you 100%. Steve Earle is definitely one of the finest songwriters out of the USA. That string of albums from Train a Comin' to I Feel Alright to El Corazon to the Mountain was pure gold.

Brings to mind my three favourite Steve Earle quotes:

When asked why he's wearing his sunglasses on stage: "Cuz man, when you're cool, the sun shines all the motherf***ing time."

In response to a bunch of idiots shouting out requests: "Son, calm down, this is my job and I know how to do it."

On the luminous Emmylou Harris: "I just hope when I'm her age, she still looks that good."

I'm sure it's out of print now because it was limited, but if you ever come across the book "Steve Earle in Quotes", be sure to grab it. Classic. The first two above were from shows that I was at, but the third is from the book.

You triggered memories of Steve Earle's short-lived record label, E-Squared Records. So I blogged about it here, if anyone is interested:


wcdixon said...

Callaghan always brings something extra to the table for these music posts...good stuff.

And that's the tune, of course.

DMc said...

Will, you're going to love it.

I don't have it yet, but apparently my CD source tells me that next week there's a CD/DVD a comin of just Mr. Earle with the guitar at Monterey.

And it's spec-tac-u-lah.

I've seen him when he was using and 4 times since. I'm glad he's found the lurve. Earle makes my toes curl. One of the greats, shurely.

wcdixon said...

Shut up Denis! Shut up and die like an Aviator!

Great...another cd/dvd purchase to budget for. No really, that's great.

Chopped Nuts said...

No wiggle-room for cds inthe budget? Really? I mean, do the kids really need to go to college?

P.S. My word verification was "gaackgve". So close to English... now it's just teasing us.

wcdixon said...

Chopped N*ts reappears! Thought we'd lost you when the blog vanished...

And my word verification was fckmie (I kid not)

Crashdummie said...

I'll totally look it up - but I doubt I'll be able to find the records here at The Far Side

Chopped Nuts said...

Nope, I'm not gone. I just got about three days into the blog and found myself spending way too much time thinking about it instead of writing.

So I'll just hang out on your blog instead. And DMc's. And Epstein's. And Espenson's. And the Film Diva's. And the Mad Pulp Bastard's...

P.S. My mom is going to be so mad you put a little censoring * in my last name. Nobody messes with Mrs. Nuts' boy!