Don Cherry. Sonic Youth and (below) Tom Lappin on Steve Earle. LISTINGS: ROCK 49 JAZZ 52 FOLK 53 CLASSICAL 55
Duke of Earle
Tom Lappin looks at the career of Steve Earle, the country outlaw who became one of the hottest properties in American rock.
The Steve Earle story is the sort of thing you’d find ludicrous if it was made into one ofthose American mini-series: Texas boy slogs around the Nashville honky-tonks for over a decade before getting his big break. and his first album results in his being named Country Artist of the year. While his music is evolving into a punchy blend of rock‘n‘roll and blues, he faces the possibility ofa ten-year jail sentence on a trumped-up charge of assaulting a Dallas cop. manages to be a member of both the National Rifle Association and the Socialist Workers Party. and still finds time to get married five times.
It's no surprise then to find his new album is called The Hard Way. You get the impression it‘s a celebration of a survivor. As he sings on the opening track. ‘There are those that break and bend. I‘m the other kind.‘ The Hard Way is Earle‘s fourth LP to date (not including a cash-in release by CBS ofsome early sessions) and a continuation of the style found on its predecessor Copperhead Road. that is. most ofthe straight
country elements are forsaken for good old American style rock‘n‘roll. salvaged from dullness by the occasional hint of mandolin or fiddle. and Earle‘s lyrics. at far cry from the country cliches ofcowpunching and faithless
He‘s come a long way from the reasonably straight country stylings of his debut Guitar Town which had lazy critics lumping him in with the New Country ‘movement‘. Earle is contemptuous of the conservatism of the Nashville establishment. and is unwilling to classify his music. believing that labels like country or rock are only suitable for radio stations. Image-wise. he‘s a long way from anyone‘s stereotype of a country boy. going in for
stubble. pony tail. leather and Harley Davidsons. Motorbikes are an obsession. and plenty of his songs celebrate the ‘frontiersman hitting the wide open road‘.
Copperhead Road and The Hard Way both take Earle‘s thoughtful and powerful lyrics (‘my gift is primarily literary rather than musical.‘ he claims) and give them a stadium-sized backup that has had those same lazy critics calling Earle the new Springsteen. It's a facile comparison. although Earle shares the Boss‘s preoccupation with small-town Americana. On the other hand. Earle doesn‘t romanticise. preferring to concentrate on specific social issues. He comes out strongly against injustice in songs like ‘Billy Austin‘ and ‘Justice in Ontario‘. dealing with the barbarity of the death penalty. and the abuse ofpolice power. obviously inﬂuenced by his own experiences in Dallas when he was half~thrott|ed by an off-duty cop outside a club.
It‘s a social conscience that has raised a few critical hackles. Sometimes his desire to align himself behind the blue-collar working classes can be faintly patronising. although songs like ‘Regular Guy‘ are perhaps to be taken as tongue-in-cheek. especially if you consider the scale of Earle‘s alimony payments. As it is. The Hard Way has been greeted with almost unanimous critical acclaim. and the signs are that his combination ofcomplex. committed subject matter. and classy. punchy call-it-what-you-like music should make him a survivor well into the 905. As he says. ‘What i do is art with a lower-case It doesn’t have any direct effect on the world. so I'm the last one to presume that I know what‘s going to happen. I‘m just hanging on for dear life like everyone else is.‘
Steve Earle And The Dukes: Glasgow Barrowland 7 Sept. Edinburgh Playhoase14 Sept. The Hard Way LP ( M CA Records).
I MR SUPEHBAD is poised to make a comeback. Yes. for better or worse. the
late-night shows on KLT FM. I KAIN. FOUNDEH member
1979. at The Shelter. Superbad has been keeping himself busy lately with
the first organised black rebellion in the United States. The work was
Apollo's legendary DJ and i of proto-rappers The Last star of stage and screen has ; Poets. pays a visit to the chosen 14 Sept (his I Third Eye Centre on 6 and 7 birthday) to mount his l October to present ‘Turner'. return to the public eye. He a performance which is
will befronting Makossa. t apparently
who have an Apollo I autobiographical. butuses connection themselves. I the name of the slave having played there in I preacherwho in 1831 led
specially commissioned by Third Eye and directed by Flemish choreographer Boris Gerrets.
I THE PROPOSED World Music Weekend. which was to take place in Glasgow on thefirstweekend of September. has been called oil. The reason given isthe
difficultyotco-ordinating ; the schedules otthe artists ; andfindingasuitable
Paul Hullah's report on the decline of vinyl in our26 July issue. the crisis in the Gulfwould appearto be nailing down the lid still furtheron the black, long-playing disc by sending the price ofvinyl
rocketing. The manufacture of compact discs. ot course. is not affected by fluctuations in the availability of oil.
I AFTER A typically quiet summer. the live music scene between now and Christmas looks healthy indeed. Among those already lined up are Billy ldol. Tina Turner. lNXS. Happy Mondays. lron i p“ Maiden and Pixies. but ' 3w“. smaller ones you won'tfind . listed in Book How are The : ._. Lilac Time. Galaxie soo. 7-? “‘5: r’ The Mock Turtles. Lush. - ’ -~‘- “ Fatima Mansions. 24-7
Spyz. The Darling Buds. The i Men They Couldn't Hang. ; season promise to be i The Hummingbirds and ultra-rare concerts by The l Northside. Events of the Cocteau Twins and The Blue
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Nile. for which tickets are already as precious as gold dust.
The List 3] August -— 13 September 199039