About four days ago I was flipping through the Village Voice to see what shows were coming up. I was zipping through the club listings and stopped when I thought I saw a picture of Steve Earle gazing out at me. Sureenough , there it was. Steve Earle at the Blue Note. “Nah, that can’t be” I thought. The legendary Blue Note is better known for it’s improvisational jazz greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane rather then hillbilly showcases but there it was on the Blue Note website, a two-night four show stint with opener (and 6th spouse, seventh marriage) Allison Moorer.
The 8:30 show was optimal for me but of course already sold out. I posted to Craig’s List pleading for a single ticket but it’s such a small venue I knew the odds were against me. Then something random and fantastic happened. Out of the blue my buddy Jim hooked me up to a with a reserved table seat right near the stage. Damn near enough to make me a believer. Allison Moorer opened and was funny, gracious and gorgeous. Her voice was warm and crystal clear. She performed the amazing”A Soft Place To Fall” and a few songs off her new CD, Getting Somewhere, New Years Day and and the title track.
After a brief break the man himself full-bearded and be-speckled ambled through the tight-packed and onto the tiny stage. He breaks into signature song “Hard Core Troubadour” and moved right into “More Than I Can Do” from 1996’s I Feel Alright. Wailing on the harmonica that would periodically pluck hairs from his face (Earle mentioned that he couldn’t shave due to a part he was playing on HBO’s the Wire that wasn’t finished filming.) “That’s why Dylan’s beard always looked so straggly.” he joked.
The polite crowd adored the man as he plowed through the Mountain, a song dedicated to miners digging for coal and risking thier lives and classics like Rich Man’s War and Jerusalem which he introduced as a song of innocence.
I’ve always said that “Americana” is country music for Liberals (I mean that in a good way). Of course Earle embodies this and had a few choice words about the Bush administration. As far as musicians commenting on politics, Earle has always struck me as a guy that really does his homework. He also commented on Greenwich village where the Blue Note is located and near where Earle and Moorer have set up house. “I buy light bulbs right next door.” He laughed.
The encore was the song that broke Earle to the word “Copperhead Road” and he rocked it up as well as an acoustic guitar can.
As much as a love seeing Steve Earle in New York City he always seems like a fish out of water. Like an oddity, a Texas commie to be observed and entertained by. As a liberal Texan I think it’s a bit a bit sad he felt he had to move so far form home to be content. Though the City may align with his progressive sensibilities there something too genteel for his shows. Too accommodating, too polite for what was taking place on stage. I saw Earle a few times in Dallas and the shows where more powerful, more electric. I think I prefer to see him in a more rowdy environment that a rooom full of hillbillies (Earle included) can conjure.