While much of country music has become pop with a twang, Steve Earle has remained true to his roots, with a catalog of great songs that tell stories. And while much of Nashville has become a haven of right wing politics, Earle remains unapologetically liberal.
I was lucky enough to catch Earle at the City Winery on the 27th in what was supposed to be the last night of his residency. (One show was postponed because of the blizzard). He performed solo, and showcased his talent with one song from each of his albums in chronological order, punctuating them with storyteller-style commentary about how they came to be written.
Several were particularly moving. “Billy Austin” is an anti-death penalty song told from the point of view of a death row prisoner. Earle humanized the character while unflinchingly admitting his guilt. “Jerusalem” is a prayer for peace in the Middle East. Other songs deal with fully realized people including pot growers, coal miners, and others from the margins of society.
If you’re not familiar with Earle’s work, I would start with the I Feel Alright album, as close to Springsteen as a country album can get. It’s the one that got me hooked on his music. This Land Is Your Land