The icing on the Independence Day holiday cake was spread on nice and thick as Steve Earle capped off the weekend with a sold-out performance for his first of a two-night stint at Music Box Supper Club. His long and illustrious career spans almost 30 years from Guitar Town to his latest release Terraplane, with enough backstories to fill an entire night of the PBS show American Masters. Although he may have always been in the shadows of other contemporaries who played large arenas and stadiums, Earle’s body of work as a songwriter should put him in the discussion for Hall of Fame induction, for both country and rock and roll.
The Mastersons were wonderful, not only opening for Earle, but later on being part of The Dukes. The duo of Chris Masterson (guitar) and wife Eleanor Whitmore (guitar/fiddle) blended beautiful harmonies throughout their brief, six-song set. Touring behind last summer’s Good Luck Charm, they performed selections “If I Wanted To”, “Uniform”, and a song for the digital age of faces buried in their cellphones called “Cautionary Tales”. They offered up new song co-written with Steve Poltz, titled “Highway One”, a track from their debut record “The Other Side”, and the set closed with a rousing rendition of “Good Luck Charm”.
The headliner came out with Kelly Looney on bass and Will Rigby on drums along with The Mastersons and opened the show with “Baby Baby Baby”, “You’re The Best Lover I Ever Had”, and “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now” from the new album. A duet with a female singer is a staple of most Steve Earle records and Whitmore provided the lovely vocals for a rendition of “Baby’s Just As Mean As Me”. The set began reaching a crescendo early as Earle dusted off the acoustic ballad “My Old Friend The Blues”, the radio single “Someday”, then hammering it down with “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road.” During his past hardship of divorce proceedings with songstress Allison Moorer, Earle once again took an inventory of his life and the amount of material he had recorded. Some stick out, like “Goodbye” which was the first song he recorded sober. Other highlights of the evening’s twenty-nine song selection were “Sparkle and Shine”, “Gallway Girl”, “South Nashville Blues”, and “CCKMP” which Earle referred to as “welcome to my nightmare” for the past twenty years.
Later into the set, another great duet song called “That All You Got?” with his guitar tech playing the accordion referenced the ferocious hurricane and tornado storms Mother Nature has been pounding America with recently. The one track which is the heart and soul of the Terraplane album called “Better Off Alone” with the lyrics And though I taught you everything you know / I learned a thing or two myself and so I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone but I’m better off alone wooed the crowd. The band just roared through “King of The Blues” and a blistering cover of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe” featuring Masterson on guitar before leaving the stage. Coming back for the encore, Earle discussed how Autism affects 1 in 89 births with 1 in 50 being male. Although scientists have not found out what causes it, Earle feels environmental changes must be part of the spike in numbers. Singing solo with just a mandolin, the aging Father dedicated a touching version of “Remember Me” to his young son John Henry who is battling the disease. Earle ended the two hour performance with “Down The Road” to a standing ovation from the audience, some traveling as far as Pittsburgh to catch this particular leg of the tour.