One of America’s favourite sons and greatest troubadours, Steve Earle, will roam into the Bow Valley for a performance at The Banff Centre’s Eric Harvie Theatre, Sunday (June 10).
Earle will perform, solo and acoustic at 7:30 p.m.
Since the release of his debut album in 1986, Earle has released a varied array of records, including the biting hard rock of Copperhead Road, the politically charged masterpiece Jerusalem and Grammy Award-winning albums Washington Square Serenade and Townes.
His latest recording, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, has met with critical acclaim and hailed as American roots music at its best. Drawing inspiration from his life and times, the songs are full of passion and poetic spirit, and are imbued with the spirit and ghosts of many great folksingers gone before.
In a sense, Earle isn’t a country artist; he’s a roots rocker. He emerged in the mid-’80s, after Bruce Springsteen had popularized populist rock ‘n’ roll and Dwight Yoakam had kick-started the neo-traditionalist movement in country music.
At first, Earle appeared to be more on the rock side than country, as he played a stripped-down, neo-rockabilly style that occasionally verged on outlaw country. However, his unwillingness to conform to the rules of Nashville or rock ‘n’ roll meant he never broke through into either genre’s mainstream.
Instead, he cultivated a dedicated cult following, drawing from both the country and rock audiences. Toward the early ’90s, his career was thrown offtrack by personal problems and substance abuse, but he re-emerged stronger and healthier several years later, producing two of his most critically acclaimed albums ever.
Born in Virginia, but raised near San Antonio, Texas, Earle received his first guitar at the age of 11 and, by the time he was 13, had become proficient enough to win a school-sponsored talent contest.
Despite his talent for music, he proved to be a wild child, often getting in trouble with local authorities. Furthermore, his rebellious, long-haired appearance and anti-Vietnam War stance was scorned by local country fans. After completing the eighth grade, Earle dropped out of school and, at the age of 16, left home with his uncle Nick Fain to begin travelling across the state. Eventually, he settled in Houston at the age of 18, where he married his first wife, Sandie, and began working odd jobs.
While in Houston, he met singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt, who would become Earle’s foremost role model and inspiration. A year later, Earle moved to Nashville.
Earle is a multitasker. In addition to a successful career as a singer-songwriter, he has branched out into the fields of fiction, playwriting and even acting. He’s been to hell and back, having served a stretch of years in prison and having dealt with a heroin addiction.
When people come out on the other side, after actually learning something and sustaining that newfound knowledge over many years, you tend to listen to them. That’s why Earle’s new album, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, is so effective.
The back-to-back Irish flourishes of “The Gulf of Mexico” and “Molly-O” invoke Irish sing-alongs, with the former responding to the BP oil spill by way of beautifully executed choruses.
“God is God” is a soul-baring rumination on the existence of God, or at least one’s personal belief. Earle lays it all out there with the line “I believe in God, and God ain’t us.” The song, as well as the rest of the album, is aided by T-Bone Burnett’s production, similar to his work on the Crazy Heart soundtrack and the Grammy-winning Raising Sand from 2007.
Tickets at The Banff Centre box office at 403-762-6301or 1-800-413-8368.