June 1, 2009

Steve Earle and Joe Pug at Berklee

Friday night I had the chance to experience a performance that symbolizes all that is right about music and the music business. Steve Earle is one of those performers who is the reason folk music exists and thrives. Earle said he learned his musical outlook from the great Townes Van Zandt, Earle's idol and mentor and whose songs he covered on his latest album: Be true to yourself and sing what is true to you. And Earle has followed that.
Before we get to the Earle specifics, let me say a few words about Joe Pug, since I was invited to this show to see the young folksinger from Chicago. Pug, a lanky dude, got up on stage with a guitar and a harmonica and no backup. He has been compared to John Prine, Josh Ritter and M. Ward, though I would say he's not quite there yet. He seems to have a good sense of humor -- a reference to how he travels to gigs was humorous -- but he could more stage presence. To say his influences included Bob Dylan would be an understatement. In fact, one of his numbers could have been called "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall Jr." But Pug is his own self too. "I Do My Father's Drugs" speaks to a generation that will be left to pay the bills of their parents. And his CD title song "Nation of Heat" is catchy. A little more seasoning could make Pug a name to listen for in the future.
As for Earle, well, I went to the show with the following knowledge. He is a straight shooter, not afraid to speak his mind. He spent much of the Bush years railing against the government (for good reason!) and he is married to country hottie Allison Moorer.
What I didn't know was about his love and dedication to the spirit of folk music, of following your heart on a musical journey, no matter where it leads. His set was littered with songs of his hero, Townes, but also with his own tunes, both political and satirical. At one point he stated that he though the country felt different now that Barack Obama is president. He said he voted for Obama and he was happy with what Obama was doing... right now, but he reserves the right to change his mind. He mentioned clean coal, and how he disagreed with Obama on it's potential use. He was funny, engaging and told some great stories about his relationship with Townes Van Zandt, especially about the first time Earle played in front of Townes in a down-and-out Texas bar. Townes kept shouting at him to play the "Wabash Cannonball."
As far as songs he played, well, I'll defer to Mark at whatilikeissounds.blogspot.com, who provides an almost-complete setlist:

Where I Lead Me (TVZ)
Colorado Girl (TVZ)
?? Unknown
Fort Worth Blues
Pancho & Lefty (TVZ)
Brand New Companion (TVZ)
Tom Ames' Prayer
More Than I Can Do
Valentines' Day
Hometown Blues
My Old Friend the Blues
Mr Mudd and Mr Gold (TVZ)
City of Immigrants
Soldiers' Joy (instrumental)
The Mountain
Lungs (TVZ)
To Live is to Fly (TVZ)

Marie (TVZ)
Sparkle & Shine
Copperhead Road

(TVZ = Townes Van Zant cover)

For more pics, click HERE
Below is a video I shot during the show. It's a long, rambling explanation of his love for Townes. Awesome. If you know the name of the tune, let me know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am going to this show in Chicago this week---HUGE question: about how long did Joe Pug play- I have a banjo lesson and trying to fit in dinner with friends as well
could you please email me at:
Thank you!!!!