Steve Earle is playing in Birmingham next week and I will be there to see him having tried to get out of it twice.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a considerable fan of Steve – particularly his acoustic/bluegrass stuff – but I have seen him a number of times over the years, most recently at the 2005 Wychwood Festival, where he appeared with his wife, Alison Moorer – and a very good set it was, too. Even so, I was in no real hurry to see him again, as I’m past the point where I feel I have to go and see everyone I like whenever they come to town.
Originally, my mate John from Bishop’s Castle wanted me to join him at this Birmingham gig and I ummed and ahhed, then said ‘No’. Just as well, as John then discovered he would be in Devon when the gig is on. Then, Barry told me SE was on in Derby and did I want to go? Having turned down a Birmingham gig, going to see him in Derby struck me as being a trifle perverse, so again I said ‘No’. I then forgot about the whole thing for some weeks until my mate Mike told me he’d got me a ticket – again for the Birmingham gig.
So, it would seem that I’m going, in the light of which I thought I would do a bit of catching up with a couple of Steve Earle items with which I was unfamiliar.
One of these is a radio broadcast from earlier this month from a Californian radio station – KCRW in Santa Monica, I believe, during which Steve is interviewed about and plays songs from his most recent CD, the excellent ‘Townes’ which is an album of cover versions of songs written and performed by the ‘Late, Great Townes van Zandt’ (to steal Townes’ prophetic 1972 album title).
Steve Earle & Townes van Zandt
Steve Earle has always played TvZ songs on stage and had recorded quite a few already, but ‘Townes’ is a dedicated TvZ project and SE does a good job with his selection from the Townes songbook. On this KCRW broadcast, he also tells us a bit about how he first met Townes when he was a 17-year old and plays a couple of the songs from ‘Townes’ , bookending the session with two songs of his own – one he wrote about Townes – the marvellous ‘Fort Worth Blues’, which is my favourite Steve Earle song of all time and the second, ‘City of Immigrants’ from the album that preceded ‘Townes’, 2007’s ‘Washington Square Serenade’.
It was a nice taster for the gig….
The next thing was a Steve Earle album I had picked up recently called ‘Train a-comin’ from 1997 and whilst I think I could perhaps be forgiven for not hearing a Santa Monica radio broadcast from earlier this month, I really cannot understand how I have managed to miss out on this excellent album. Steve is accompanied by only a minimalist acoustic band on this album, with the talented, if eccentric Pete Rowan on mandolin, guitar & backing vocals and Emmylou Harris also adding her vocal talents on a couple of tracks. Inevitably, there’s another TvZ song on the album as well; ‘Tecumseh Valley’ from Townes’ early days.
So, looking forward to Steve Earle a little more after delving into these 2 recordings and also reflecting on what a great talent we have lost in Townes van Zandt, who was just 52 when he died back in 1997….
I have a good Townes story of a gig of his I attended back in 1990, but I think I’ll save that for another time….