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Earle still has a lot to say

City Winery, Boston, February 3, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Steve Earle is not ready to be relegated to elder statesmen status. Not at 63, not after three decades in the business. And most definitely, not when you kick off a solo set with "F the CC" with a song from 2004's Grammy winning "The Revolution Starts Now."

For the Texas country singer/songwriter, who showed himself to be far more than that before a sold-out house, the revolution continued with a song about as relevant now as it did then.

Political as he can be - Earle also talked about the downtrodden, immigrants, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and more during his 130-minute show - he was far from a Johnny one note.

Nope. This was vintage Earle with a load of excellent songs new and old, a variety of styles ranging from country ("So You Wanna Be an Outlaw") to Celtic ("The Galway Girl") to singer/songwriter (well most any thing) to blues ("South Nashville Blues"), and an ever keen sense as a master storyteller.

Earle comes from a long tradition of mighty fine Texas singer/songwriters with Townes Van Zandt a key influence.

Earle showcased the old with at the outset "The Devil's Right Hand," Someday" and "Guitar Town," the title track of his very first CD. Three decades later, Earle breathed a lot of life into these chestnuts. His voice may have weathered ever so slightly, but it continues to serve him well.

His choice of material and musicianship was superb with acoustic guitar his main instrument, but playing mandolin on a few songs plus harp only underscored the width and breadth of artist and material.

Earle could tell stories as well, including having seen Texas blues greats Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins on the same bill and even opening up for Lipscomb to his long list of marriages (he's been married a whopping seven times) and how he wanted to have a marriage just like his parents did.

Yes, the setting was small as the venue holds about 300 and was long sold out, but the best of performers must tear down the figurative walls separating artist from audience. Earle had no problems getting intimate and personal with his fans, while also maintaining a humorous touch.

Earle will be back in a few weeks with a similar show in the residency, but that will not be the last we'll hear from Earle this year as he's going on the road with a band on the 30th anniversary of his rock-oriented "Copperhead Road." He maybe looking back a bit as a result, but with shows like this, Earle gave no hint of slowing down.

Earle seems to know that as well. In introducing "Spark and Shine" two-thirds of the way through, "When I look in the mirror, I don't see the beard," said Earle, who is balding and has a long beard graying at the end, "I see the guy in his 20s."

Forever young, Earle still has a lot to say.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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