When: Fri., July 14, 8 p.m. 2017
When Texas troubadour Steve Earle first made his way to Nashville in the mid-seventies, the outlaw country movement was busting out all over. The young Earle soaked it all up, and by the time he emerged to the wider world in the eighties, he represented a new generation of outlaws blending country roots and rock 'n' roll edge. Three and a half decades down the line, Earle has decided to pay homage to those early outlaw influences on his latest album, So You Wannabe an Outlaw.
Earle's affection for Waylon Jennings's signature seventies sound is one of the building blocks of the album. He taps into the Waylon beat and guitar style straight out of the gate on the record's title track, but the album isn't all about peeking fondly into the rearview mirror, either. Earle has acknowledged that much, if not all, of the album was informed by the process of picking up the pieces in the wake of his 2014 split with his wife, fellow Americana singer-songwriter Allison Moorer. Songs like "Lookin' for a Woman," "This Is How It Ends," and "You Broke My Heart" certainly seem to bear that idea out.
Still, So You Wannabe An Outlaw isn't merely the sound of a man ruminating over a wrecked romance. It also happens to contain some of the toughest-sounding tunes he's cut in a good while—furious, fire-spitting tracks like "If Mama Coulda Seen Me" and "Fixin' to Die." Like the title tune, these cuts toy with the outlaw myth, turning in on itself and then back out again, and churning out some deliciously raw riffs in the process.
It certainly seems reasonable to expect a representation of the new material in Earle's live set, be it the rockers, the ballads, or both, but plenty of other worthy material has come from his camp recently. In fact, in the last couple of years before the new record's release, Earle has made bolder artistic explorations than ever, encompassing his duo record with Shawn Colvin and his blues album, Terraplane Blues. So when Earle's done playing the classics from his canon and the new tunes, he still has lots of other musical tricks to pull. —Jim Allen