CLEARWATER — Steve Earle & The Dukes will perform Saturday, June 8, 8 p.m., at Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater.
Tickets start at $34.50. Call 727-791-7400 or visit www.atthecap.com.
Earle is on tour in support of “Guy,” his new album. The album is comprised of songs written by one of Earle’s two primary songwriting mentors, the legendary Guy Clark. “Guy” appears 10 years after his Grammy Award-winning album “Townes,” his tribute to his other songwriting mentor, Townes Van Zandt.
Earle is one of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of his generation with his songs being recorded by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, The Pretenders and countless others. He is a country rebel with a rock and roll attitude. His unwillingness to conform to the rules of Nashville or rock and roll meant that he never broke through into either genre's mainstream. Instead, he cultivated a dedicated cult following and racked up critical acclaim for songs such as “Copperhead Road” and “Fearless Heart.”
Earle and his current, perhaps best ever, bunch of Dukes take on the songs that make up “Guy” with a spirit of reverent glee and invention. The tunes are all over the place and so is the band, offering max energy on such disparate entries as the bluegrass rave-up “Sis Draper” and talking blues memoir of “Texas 1947.” Earle’s raw vocal on the sweet, sad “That Old Time Feeling” is heartbreaking, sounding close enough to the grave as to be doing a duet with his dead friend.
Earle said he couldn’t “get out of” making the new album.
“You know, as you live your life, you pile up these regrets,” he explained. “I’ve done a lot of things that might be regrettable, but most of them I don’t regret because I realize I couldn’t have done anything else at the time. “With Guy, however, there was this thing. When he was sick — he was dying really for the last 10 years of his life — he asked me if we could write a song together. We should do it ‘for the grandkids,’ he said. Well, I don’t know ... at the time, I still didn’t co-write much, then I got busy. Then Guy died and it was too late. That, I regret.”
Earle didn’t think making “Guy” paid off some debt, as if it really could.
Like the “Townes” record, “Guy” is a saga of friendship, its ups and downs, what endures. It is lucky for us that Earle remembers and honors these things, because like old friends, “Guy” is a diamond.