Earle is a King

I saw Steve Earle perform at the venerable Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati last night.

It wasn’t a full-on concert, it was a “Words and Music” performance, meaning Steve did about eight songs, and also read from his novel and collection of short stories, then took questions from the audience.

He talked about his heroes – Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan. He mentioned how the Vietnam War changed not only those who went and their families, but the entire country… and inspired his album Copperhead Road. He played his song “Devil’s Right Hand” after telling a funny yet moving story about his then-14-year-old son (Justin Townes Earle – a great singer/songwriter in his own right) stealing one of his guns, and how it changed his views on gun control.

Steve dropped out of school and ran away from home at age 14. He talked about how he regretted his lack of formal education, and often wished he could be a Writer (capital W)… until someone pointed out that as a songwriter he was writing stories that people could sing along to as they’re riding in their cars. Damn straight! One of the songs he did last night is probably my favorite tune of his, called “Someday.” In four minutes, it paints a vivid picture and captures the yearning of small-town kids better than any novel I’ve read.  (The lyrics and a live performance are below.)

I saw Steve in a similar intimate, small-room setting back in the early 90s, at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California. That was back when he was hooked on drugs. He wound up homeless, then in jail.

He’s been sober for 20+ years now, and I’m sure glad he’s still around to share his Writing with us.


Here’s the song wrote for Guy Clark after he passed away:

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