While I'm not NOT
a fan of Steve Earle, it wouldn't be truthful to call myself a fan. You know what i mean. I'd always found him pretty easy to ignore, to be honest, until I caught him in his turn acting on HBO's excellent drama "The Wire". Earle's music was featured in several episodes as well, and maybe by virtue of his association with the show I found myself intrigued and wanting to better familiarize myself with his recordings.
I have a passing familiarity with country/folk music, mostly where it intersects with rock music. Mostly I like my country music (and I do
like my country music) unadulterated by pop/rock and of the pre-Nashville variety. I'm well aware of Graham Parsons and Townes VanZandt and the impact their material had on many contemporary rock musicians. Mr Earle's story became infinitely more interesting when I learned that Townes VanZandt was indeed his mentor and they had a professional relationship and friendship that lasted for 25 years until Mr VanZandt's death at the age of 52. Earle honed his craft under the tutelage of Mr VanZandt; unfortunately it would seem that VanZandt also showed his protege to a life in shadows.
VanZandt's struggles with alcohol and heroin are well known and it it widely believed that his excesses brought him to his early grave. Mr Earle managed to kick his heroin addiction in the middle nineties while in jail on drug and firearm posession charges. His character on 'The Wire' was that of an ex-addict and a wise, empathic NA sponsor. He was charismatic in the role and most convincing. His unique presence and appearance inspired this portrait which was used as a self-promotional piece.
Townes VanZant's "Waiting Around To Die" is a masterpiece of high lonesome. And nobody should roam this earth without having heard "Quicksilver Dreams Of Maria" at least once.
"The Devil's Right Hand" By Mr Earle is a catchy yet scathing indictment of gun violence although Earle insists it's 'just a folk song'. The barrelhouse piano and raucous atmosphere of "Snake Oil" belies the song's underlying condemnation of 'politics as usual'; it suceeds admirably on both levels.