26 June 2009


Steve Earle has lead an interesting life, to put it mildly. He was born in Virginia and raised in various places around the US, though he's most often identified with Texas. He dropped out of school in 9th grade, in order to pursue a career in music.

It took more than ten years for him to become known as a performer - along the way he made a living writing songs for other artists, and he became friends with several other like-minded musicians including Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.

He also had a heavy drug addiction for many years that nearly ended his career. After taking some time off in the early nineties to clean up, he came back with a vengeance, releasing his most creative, diverse, and fiercely political albums in the years that have followed.

Though he tends to be listed as a country artist, his work varies from folk to bluegrass to rockabilly, to straight-forward rock. I've also seen him referred to as "outlaw country". If you're not familiar with the term, think of it as the country boy's gangsta rap.

I had written him off as just another country act, until I heard "Copperhead Road" in the late eighties. That song lead me to buy the album, where I discovered his style was so much more broad than what I had assumed. Hell, The Pogues are his backing band for one of the tracks on that album.

Here's a batch of songs that you won't find on his albums:

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Steve Earle - "Ellis Unit One" From the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. (buy)
Steve Earle - "Open Your Window" From the Pay It Forward soundtrack. (buy) Not a movie that I would recommend to anyone (even though I'm a fan of Kevin Spacey's work), but the song is good.
Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band - "Copperhead Road" (live) A very different version than the original rocker. Released on "The Mountain" single.
Steve Earle and the Dukes - "Two Girls" (Townes Van Zandt cover) Steve's latest album is a full-length tribute to his friend, Townes, who passed away in 1997. This is an older cut from a various artist tribute called Poet, (buy) which is scheduled to be re-issued in July.
Steve and Justin Earle - "Candy Man" (Mississippi John Hurt cover) From the tribute album Avalon Blues. (buy) Steve recorded this one with his son, who has followed in dad's footsteps and put out several critically acclaimed albums himself.
Steve Earle - "Six Days On the Road" From the Plains, Trains and Automobiles soundtrack.
Steve Earle - "Walking Down Death Row" (Pete Seeger cover) From the tribute album If I Had a Song. (buy)
Steve Earle and the Dukes - "When Will We Be Married?" (live) A traditional song which was made popular in recent years thanks to The Waterboys. Recorded for a BBC broadcast in 1988.

Buy some Steve Earle:

Guitar Town, 1986 (buy remaster)
Exit 0, 1987 (buy)
Copperhead Road, 1988 (buy) (buy remaster)
The Hard Way, 1990 (buy)
Train a Commin', 1995 (buy)
I Feel Alright, 1996 (buy)
El Corazón, 1997 (buy)
The Mountain, 1999 (buy) (with the Del McCoury Band)
Transcendental Blues, 2000 (buy)
Jerusalem, 2002 (buy)
The Revolution Starts Now, 2004 (buy)
Washington Square Serenade, 2007 (buy) (buy deluxe)
Townes, 2009 (buy) (buy deluxe)

Steve is currently touring in the US & Canada, with dates around the world in the fall. Details are on his official site.

In local-ish music news, Joey Arroyo will be performing during an in-store appearance at Hoodlums in Tempe on Saturday. Details at his website, or the Hoodlums website.


dick said...

another great set of songs. thank you very much

DeadBilly said...

Thank you.