Legendary folk-rocker Steve Earle makes his valley debut

Steve Earle
Steve Earle's Cowichan Theatre show Thursday is a Vancouver Island exclusive.
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No wonder Steve Earle's Cowichan debut has sold out Thursday's show.

With Grammy awards, global status and tons of valley fans, the Copperhead Road songwriter was a natural for the Cowichan Theatre.

Besides, one fan even invited Earle to go fishing, noted theatre boss Kirsten Schrader.

The News Leader Pictorial couldn't reach Earle for an interview, but locals shared their praise about the eco-conscious jukebox with 14 albums on his resume.

"Everything about Steve Earle's cool," said country-axman Ron Ingram.

"He's so diverse and has songs that touch everything," he said, noting Tuber band's bassist, Shelley Brown, turned him on to Earle's tunes.

Ingram even plays Earle's numbers Snake Oil, and My Old Friend The Blues.

"He's pretty politically active too — definitely a people's person."

That's why Schrader spent a year sealing a Cowichan deal with Earle as an island exclusive to launch his B.C. tour.

She wanted a Canadian exclusive, but compromised.

"They weren't coming here but to American dates, but they added a B.C. tour; my stipulation was an island exclusive — I knew he'd sell well."

So well, the 731-seat theatre will be packed, but some tickets will be released for sale Thursday.

Schrader said Earle's gig was kept to an affordable $43.

"He's not coming with his wife (Allison Moorer) but with accompaniment, though not his whole band.

"I worked it down to something people could afford. With a sold-out show we make a little bit of money, but not much," she said of the re-booked show after March's date was scrubbed for work Down Under.

His Cowichan stop is sure to include numbers from Earle's recent CD I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive — complementing his same-name book — plus earlier tunes such as 2009 Grammy-grabber Townes.

That disc features This City, written for the HBO Original Series, Treme, involving Earle the actor.

This City gained a Grammy nod, plus his first Emmy Award nomination.

"They are all, as far as I can tell, about mortality in one way or the other; death as a mystery rather than a punctuation mark or at least, a comma rather than a period," he said of his collection of songs.

Earle's bent toward tough topics made storyteller Earle a protégé of legendary songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.

Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt, The Pretenders, and Joan Baez also recorded his songs.

Earle's 1986 debut disc, Guitar Town, established the term New Country, his press stuff says.

Then came his mega-hit Copperhead Road (1988), minimalist Train A Comin' (1995), the politically charged masterpiece, Jerusalem (2002), and Grammy albums The Revolution Starts...Now (2004), Washington Square Serenade (2007), and Townes (2009).

Train' A Comin' was the former heroin-addict's comeback album after 18 months in jail for drugs and weapons offences.

"He's a tough cookie," summed valley singer Paul Ruszel.

Bassist Brown cited Jerusalem among her favourites from the left-learning artist with a social conscience.

"He sings about prisoners and abolishing the death penalty, and environmental stuff," said Brown, who began plucking bass after hearing Earle's The Mountain (2000).

Bassist Martyn Jones explained he respects his music, with reservations.

"He's an organic guy, but not really slick; he produces everything really raw now — it's really stark," he said, adding Earle's sound has changed since Copperhead Road.

"That's a problem for any big artist: how do you handle their big hit (years on)?"

Still, Woodshop Studio owner Zak Cohen remains a fan.

"Steve Earle's one of the best songwriters of his generation. He continues producing albums with little or no regard to their commercial success — he makes records for the love of it, himself and his fans."

Your ticket

What: Steve Earle

When: June 7, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Cowichan Theatre

Tickets: $43. Call 250-748-7529.


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