Watch Steve Earle at SXSW

Steve Earle
Photo by Rick Panneck

I admit it. The hipster music schedule went out the window tonight. SXSW has so many genres of music to choose from for shows that it’s the old 'kid in the candy store' syndrome. Rumblings of a record company shindig with Steve Earle swirled on twitter, sparking my interest.

In my previous life as a radio music director, I had the opportunity to hang with Steve Earle after he performed a showcase for the station I worked at. It was Steve Earle and the Dukes at that time. He always puts on a great live show and I heard this one would be a solo acoustic set. A funny thing happened though. Two other artists were added to the bill that made this particular show a must-see. God, I hope the show doesn’t fill to capacity before I make it to the venue.

How often do you get the opportunity to see three of the best singer-songwriters ever play acoustically at a club? New West Records, a true musicians' label, was showcasing three of their artists; John Hiatt, Richard Thompson and Steve Earle. All playing intimate sets at the Parish on Sixth Street. The Parish is about the size of the High Noon Saloon in Madison.

It was definitely an older crowd gathered for the acoustic onslaught. Richard Thompson probably made the funniest comment of the night, “I love it when they make old people stand for an acoustic set,” he said wryly. John Hiatt tried some new songs on the crowd that will come out on an album early next year. He was in town to see his daughter Lilly, an Austin resident and leader of Lilly Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies.

The consummate troubadour, Steve Earle, came out and joked about having to follow Richard Thompson and then proceeded to put on a mesmerizing set that included chestnuts like Someday and Copperhead Road along with new material from the forthcoming "Low Highway" album. "This was the first song I wrote sober, which means it's 18-and-a-half years old. I know that for a fact," the Texas native recounted as an introduction to a haunting "Goodbye." With a checkered past that is interwoven into the mindset of hardships and victories, reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt and Woody Guthrie, Steve Earle's life experiences bring authenticity and grittiness to a live acoustic performance. These are the type of performances that make SXSW worthwhile. I pretty much hunkered down, had a beer or two and enjoyed the show.

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