Steve Earle; The Voice of Reason …

How can you not like a guy who wants to burn down a Walmart  …?

This is the legacy and mindset which Steve Earle – composer of ‘Copperhead Road‘ and ‘ Guitar Town‘, carried  into Montreal last night at The Virgin Corona Theater. An arsenal of soul-defining songs? Not the only baggage which arrived on stage in the form of a fifty-eight year old Texan.

Earle, a long-standing opponent of anything corporate – toted a lifetime of self-abuse by way of alcohol and drugs in front of an appreciative crowd of ‘ Earle lovers.’ The man does not just write about the injustices and demons which walk among us; he has lived them.

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Earle’s mistakes and victories are fortunate. If not for his struggles with moral values, integrity and personal demons – the world void of a voice ripe with verity. Lyrics providing commandments which everyone ( America – raise your hands) – should live by.

Something special happens from the time Steve Earle (and The Dukes and Duchesses ) arrive onstage. Like a bricklayer starting work on a hot and humid day, Earle and his talented friends get down to business. No rock star antics, no posing and no bullshit. A reflection of Earle. A reflection of the type of messages Earle delivers through his songs …

Hey pretty baby are you ready for me
It’s your good rockin’ daddy down from Tennessee
I’m just out of Austin bound for San Antone
With the radio blastin’ and the bird dog on
There’s a speed trap up ahead in Selma Town
But no local yokel gonna shut me down
‘Cause me and my boys got this rig unwound
And we’ve come a thousand miles from a Guitar Town

Earle is on tour promoting his new album: ‘The Low Highway’. That was obvious as a majority of the songs last night performed from that very disc.

steve6‘The Low Highway’ – the title track, probably the most telling and astute statement of the night. Accompanied by a tale of walking in New York with actor and musician Tim Robbins, Earle narrates real America. A profound portrait sketched by lines of people at food banks. ‘For the very first time’ – explained Earle; ‘I am witnessing the type of things that Dylan, Guthrie and myself have written about. A concept which was played out during the great depression and not ‘that bad’ from the sixties until now. ‘The Low Highway’; sung wistfully amid a strong conviction of a man who has traveled from a jail cell, through seven marriages, alcohol and drug addiction until his recent musings.

Chris Masterson ( on pedal steel) and his multi-instrumental wife Eleanor Whitmore (fiddle), providing startling evidence of saintly (devlish?) perfection by way of musicianship.

Earle’s voice –  a rasp which can chameleon into the softness of a feather at moment’s notice. A fact apparent in the poignant ‘ Remember Me’. The evening’s most heart-warming moment – musically, spiritually and lyrically.

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Steve Earle has a three year old son. Born with Autism and late in Earle’s life, ‘Remember Me’ was written for his son to listen to when Earle Sr. is no longer wandering the planet. A moving message carried out by a man, who – in hindsight, dismayed by the abuse he has inflicted on his body. Pure Americana, a plea from a father to his child.  Will Rigby‘s 4/4 snare and bass drum accompanies Kelly Looney’s non-looney upright bass while Earle strums his acoustic guitar through heartstrings. The trio joined at the proper time by mandolin and pedal steel. Earle’s son will remember his Father. No problem …

The Dukes and Duchesses – (‘the best band I have ever had’; says Earle) a perfect fit for Steve’s vast catalog ranging from hard rockers, tender ballads, Blues, Country and Bluegrass.

‘Guitar Town’, ‘Some Day’, Galway Girl‘ and ‘Copperhead Road’  – providing die-hardsteve5 fans the ingredients to construct a memory lane while ‘off the beaten path’ songs ‘Taneytown‘, ‘ Hard Core Troubador’ and ‘ Ben McCullough’ offering glimpses of why Earle’s legendary status will grow further into heavenly territory as the years continue to shred through time like a saw dispersing wood-chips.

‘I Thought You Should Know ‘ (The Revolution Starts Now),’ After Mardi Gras’ (The Low Highway), ‘You’re Still Standing There’ (I Feel Alright) and ‘I Ain’t Ever Satisfied’ (Exit 0), set the table. ‘ Still in Love With You’ and ‘Remember Me’ – the main course of guilty pleasures. ‘Burnin’ It Down’ (The Low Highway); the delightful dessert …

Steve Earle speaks of  burnin’ it down. Secretly – everyone hopes he does …

Gotta keep rockin’ why I still can
I gotta two pack habit and a motel tan
But when my boots hit the boards I’m a brand new man
With my back to the riser I make my stand
And hey pretty baby won’t you hold me tight
We’re loadin’ up and rollin’ out of here tonight
One of these days I’m gonna settle down
And take you back with me to the Guitar Town

Setlist

1. The Low Highway (The Low Highway)

  • 2. 21st Century Blues (The Low Highway)

    3. Calico County (The Low Highway)

    4. Taneytown (El Corazon)

    5. Hardcore Troubador (I Feel Alright)

    6.I Thought You Should Know (The Revolution Starts Now)*

    7. That All You Got? (The Low Highway)

    8. Love’s Gonna Blow My Way (The Low Highway)

    9. After Mardi Gras (The Low Highway)*

    10. Pocket Full of Rain (The Low Highway)

    11. Ben McCulloch (Train-a-Comin’)

    12. You’re Still Standing There (I Feel Alright)*

    13. Invisible (The Low Highway)

    14. Burning it Down (The Low Highway)*

    15. I Ain’t Ever Satisfied (Exit 0)*

    16. Guitar Town (Guitar Town)*

    17. Copperhead Road (Copperhead Road)*

    18. Warren Helm’s Banjo (The Low Highway)

    19. Little Emperor (I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive)

    20. Billy and Bonnie (I Feel Alright) 2

    21. Mystery Train Part II (Train-a-Comin’)

    22. Galway Girl (Transcendental Blues)

    23. Down the Road Part II (The Low Highway)

    24. Down the Road (Guitar Town)

    Encore 1

    1. Still in Love With You (The Mountain)

    2. Remember Me (The Low Highway)

    3. City of Immigrants  (Washington Square Serenade)

    Encore 2

    1. Nothin But You (Early Tracks)

    2. Continental Railway Blues (Early Tracks)

    3. The Revolution Starts Now (The Revolution Starts Now)

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