Music Review – Steve Earle and the Dukes

18 Nov

– by Ian McDonald

Steve Earle and the Dukes [and Duchesses] featuring Allison Moorer – Glasgow O2 Academy, 27th Oct.

“If you got a Boss, you need a Union.”

About halfway through the show, Steve Earle made the comment ‘If you got a Boss, you need a Union’ after talking about what was happening in the USA to the union movement, particularly the attacks on collective bargaining in Wisconsin and Maine.

This tour is Steve’s first with a band in about six years and his first at the O2 Academy, his usual preferred Glasgow venue being the Barrowlands, where, as he put it, the floor and the audience bounce. He also stated that this gig showed why he and other musicians like playing to Glasgow audiences.

Since the last tour with the Dukes, Steve has moved from Nashville to New York, re-invented himself as a Greenwich Village based folk singer with the album Washington Square Serenade and made an album of Townes Van Zandt songs (Townes) and also found the time to be a political activist, actor and author.

Steve has toured almost constantly for the last few years, either with wife Allison Moorer or solo, and over the last year with this new band, which is one of the most versatile line-ups there could be – at one point a Celtic folk rock band with Johnny come lately , the next a hard rock outfit with great versions of The Revolution starts now and Taneytown. And then a bluegrass band: the version of The Mountain had exquisite harmonies from the Dukes and Duchesses.

On bass and drums with the band were long time Dukes, Kelly Looney and Will Rigby and on vocals, guitar, pedal steel, mandolin was Chris Masterton along with Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle, guitar and vocals. Allison Moore completes the line-up on guitars, accordion and keyboards and her featured version of the Sam Cooke soul classic A change is gonna come was powerful and intense and quietened the chattering members of the Glasgow audience for a while.

The latest album I’ll never get out of this world alive shares its title with the novel he has just brought out and also refers back to the Hank Williams’ song of the same name. The album is a great collection of songs which in the main deal with mortality. 57 year old Steve and Allison Moorer have a son who is just over a year old, and who Steve plans to take to Yankees games. The O2 show started with Waiting for the sky to fall, the opening track from the new album. The first half was being recorded by Radio Scotland for the Ricky Ross ‘Another Country’ programme and consisted of a few tracks from the new album, Little Emperor with its reference to George W Bush and The Gulf of Mexico inspired by the BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and a mixture of other songs from Steve’s career.

The show lasted nearly three hours and the favourites were played – Guitar Town, Someday, My old friend the blues, Copperhead Road, Galway Girl and after two encores including Bob Dylan’s It takes a lot to laugh, Steve and the band came out to the merchandise stand to sign CDs and books.

I have seen Steve Earle on a number of occasions and at the O2 Academy the Hard Core Troubadour and his band were on top form and the Glasgow audience enjoyed a top class combination of political activism and great songs.



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