American singer-songwriter, Steve Earle, played his renowned folk tunes on the closing night of the Harvest Jazz and Blues festival.
Earle, born in Virginia but raised in Texas, rose up through the country music scene after moving to Nashville at the age of 19. He worked as a songwriter and musician until the release of his breakout album Guitar Town. It was followed by 15 more studio albums between his first full-length release and 2017.
Earle opened the show with Copperhead Road, released in 1988 and his most popular song. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the album, so Earle dedicated the first half of his show to playing its track listing in full. The album is well-known to old and new fans alike.
Copperhead Road is a song packed with hard-hitting energy and it was the perfect match for the buzz of excitement in the Blues Tent. The tent funneled the audience towards the stage in an open, yet intimate setting. There was seating at the back and along the side of the tent closer to the stage.
Earle does have a more traditional style, but his music is a compilation of stylistic influences from metal to Irish Celtic rock. The diversity of his stylistic range means he attracts many different demographics, and that was evident by the sheer volume of people completely filling the tent Saturday night.
Earle demonstrated his long experience as a performer during the show, and even spoke to his left-leaning political views on stage. Before playing his song “The Devil’s Right Hand”, a narrative against capital punishment and the glorification of guns, he said, “Usually there’s a lecture needed before this song down South,” referring to the more conservative views on gun control in the United States.
Earle has been an activist of political change and reform for decades, as Earle himself professes.
“Copperhead Road was a political record, and I was making political music long before the 90s,” he said, referring to the lead up to his 2002 and 2004 albums, Jerusalem and The Revolution Starts…Now. The former considered tensions in the Middle East and the United States after 9/11, and the latter emphasized his political concerns with George W. Bush’s America. Even so, Earle said that Copperhead Road was “actually about coming to terms with the Vietnam War.”
He also took a moment to mention the wildfires in the west. This was to support those in need and to reference the issue of climate change. Earle is no stranger to rooting for the boots-on-the-ground, everyday folk in times of crisis with songs like “Rich Man’s War” and “The Revolution Starts Now.” During the concert, he spoke up on behalf of the firefighters out west who, according to him, were “trying to save some rich asshole’s house who shouldn’t have built it there in the first place.”
As Earle transitioned to the set of his latest album, So You Wannabe An Outlaw, the show finished by reminiscing about the past, both on and off the stage.