Steve Earle w/ Allison Moorer @ The Pabst Theater
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Earle showcased his one-man band talents, expertly handling acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar and harmonica, all the while conveying lyrics that range from lost love to war to rough-and-tumble livin’.
Drawing from his latest release, Washington Square Serenade, the now-transplanted New Yorker has mellowed and moved on, literally, reminiscing about his former home (“Tennessee Blues”), immigration (“City of Immigrants”) and drug use (“Oxycontin Blues”). The musical maverick once again moved in a new direction when DJ Neil McDonald worked the turntables to create the bass beats that gave Earle’s country/folk songs a contemporary, fresh sound. A cover of Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” took on a dark, cerebral feel as Earle and McDonald plumbed the murky depths with a metallic edge.
In the tradition of his folk activist forefathers, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Earle commanded the audience in a sing-along on his dedication to Seeger, “Steve’s Hammer (For Pete).”
Earle provided the audience with a strong double bill, as accomplished country singer Allison Moorer opened the show with a 35-minute set of mostly covers from her new CD, Mockingbird. Moorer is Earle’s wife, but she holds her own with a clear, powerful voice which imparts age-old experience that belies her youthful 36 years. Her introspective take on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” recast the song in a new light, while her finale, a rendition of the Sam Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come,” was as resonant and timeless today as it was 44 years ago during the civil rights movement.