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Steve Earle: An American Original Comes To Beartrap

Steve Earle
Scott Gries, Getty Images

Country, rock, folk – it’s hard to put Steve Earle in any particular “box” or genre.  He’s a little bit of all of the above, and a little bit more – a unique musical concoction that truly makes for an original one-of-a-kind performer.  Casper’s set to get a taste of Steve (and his “Dukes”) when they make it to Beartrap on Sunday, August 5.

Steve spent his formative years in Texas, the son of a military air traffic controller who dropped out of school in the 9th grade to make his way to Houston to learn more about the music business.  In 1975, Steve’s travels took him to Nashville – where he met Guy Clark and fellow Texas musician Townes Van Zandt, both of whom he credits as his mentors and teachers.  Clark was a large part of Steve being hired as a major-label songwriter – where he went on to write for folks like Carl Perkins, Vince Gill, Johnny Lee, Patty Loveless, and Steve Wariner, among others.  (Little-known fact:  Steve wrote a song called “Mustang Wine” for Elvis, who never turned up for the recording session – the song ended up being released by Carl Perkins.)

Steve’s early work leaned a bit to the rockabilly, which you can hear on his compilation album Early Tracks - an album that was actually initially scrapped, and only released after he had found major-label success elsewhere:

By 1986, things were looking up – Steve’s first major release Guitar Town was both a critical and commercial success, becoming a #1 album, and top 10 single for the title track:

Steve’s follow-up albums Exit 0 and Copperhead Road built on this success, and began to be more heavily-influenced by Steve’s rock and roll side – particularly with Copperhead Road, the anthemic track that weaved together powerful images of generations of a Southern family’s illicit evolution from moonshine to marijuana.  Steve himself called the album “the world’s first blend of heavy metal and bluegrass” – and Rolling Stone coined the phrase “power twang” in their initial review.

Drugs were present in more places than Steve’s music, he had been battling substance abuse since an early age, and spent many years addicted to heroin.  By the time the 1990′s came around, it was evident that the impact of his addictions were severe – which led to a two-year stretch of no touring and recording, a time that Steve refers to as his “vacation in the ghetto”.  A trip to jail on drug and firearms charges proved to be a personal and musical rebirth – giving him time to kick old habits, and release what would be the first of two albums within a year and a half of his 1994 release from jail.

Train A Comin’, the comeback album, was a return to some of the country and blues-influenced music of his early days, which got him a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and set off a creative period that was much more diverse than Steve’s earlier days.  Bluegrass, country, hard rock, and then some – he’s experimented with them all, and has an incredible work ethic as he continues to create while playing over 200 shows a year.

His talents aren’t just limited to music – he’s an accomplished writer, with a collection of short stories, novels, poetry, and even an off-Broadway play to his credit.  In addition, Steve’s dabbled in acting – supporting roles in the 2009 movie Leaves Of Grass, and several episodes of HBO originals like The Wire, and Treme.

Love and marriage have been a rocky road for Steve, who holds the unique distinction of having been married seven times – twice to the same woman.  In 2005, he settled down with singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, with whom he had his second child and their first together, in 2010.  Allison occasionally joins Steve on the road in his various configurations (although not at Beartrap, Steve will be backed in Casper by his touring band “The Dukes”.)

Rockabilly, folk, country, bluegrass, rock and roll, master storyteller – whichever part of Steve Earle tickles your musical fancy – it’s safe to say that he’ll be bringing a little bit of it all to the mountain this year, as he closes out the 2012 Beartrap Summer Festival.  Here’s a taste of Steve Earle and The Dukes to get you ready for the show!  Got tickets?

“Transcendental Blues” – from an appearance on Conan O’ Brien:

“I Ain’t Ever Satisfied”:

“City Of Immigrants”:

An intimate version of “Pancho & Lefty”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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