Steve Earle At Amoeba, Wednesday June 21st 2017
Steve Earle is a true talker, his set at Amoeba consisted of as much talking as singing and playing, but none of his attentive fans did complain, because he is a real storyteller. He was playing an in-store to celebrate the release of his new album ‘So You Wannabe an Outlaw’, but he gave the tone right away: ‘First we have to sing this’, he said before a slightly altered version of The Woody Guthrie classic, ‘This Land is Your Land’. He sort of apologized, just after singing the song, adding ‘It’s weird because this is the least political record I have ever made,’ talking about his new one… ‘But I didn’t know this would happen’.
‘So You Wannabe an Outlaw’ is a sort of new direction for Earle, since it is the first recording he has ever made in Austin, Texas. This is a bit strange for a musician from Texas and whose name and music have easily classified as country, or alt-country but Earle left Texas when he was 19 and has been living in New York for a long while, so in a way this album is a return to his own roots.
He continued with the Waylon-inspired title track which features a vocal cameo from Willie Nelson on the album, but between the singing, he was introducing the songs with long and detailed monologues, because context and story details apparently matter a lot for Steve Earle.
If this record is largely electric, as he told us, his set was entirely acoustic, he was performing alone with an acoustic guitar, but the sound was powerful, with his voice loudly resonating with a slight twang, and a sort of constant nostalgia. ‘This is not a political song’, he said before the melancholic song ‘The Girl on the Mountain’ he sang with an almost Tom Waits gravelling voice. ‘But there are chick songs, and this is important because I am single,’ he continued explaining he was ‘kind of romantic about everything’…’Politics are pretty fucking romantic…If politics were about what the world is, I would not be talking about it, Politics are about what the world should be….’And love songs are about what love should be’.
He also introduced a firemen anthem ‘The Firebreak Line ‘, an older song (’News from Colorado’) written in collaboration with his ex-wife Allison Moorer and his niece Emily Earle, ‘who managed to stay out of the hot tub with CeeLo when she was on The Voice’, followed by another moving song from the new album, ‘Goodbye Michelangelo’ written just after the death of his mentor Guy Clark, a legendary singer-songwriter from Texas. Each time, Steve Earle would give all the details and context you would possibly imagine, leaving nothing for us to guess, but certainly showing how these songs resonated in his life. With his beard, his thin hair and his guy-ready-for-a-ride-on-the-highway look, Steve Earle is still an outlaw in Nashville even if he records there, he pays homage to all the outlaws from Nelson to Waylon and he doesn’t need to wear boots or a hat to make his come back in the legendary Music City.
This Land Is Your Land
So You Wanna Be an Outlaw
Lookin’ for a Woman
The Firebreak Line
The Girl on the Mountain
News from Colorado
Fixin to Die