Earle, who stands more in the old outlaw country realm than the pabulum that is pushed out of Nashville and currently passes for country, has always been willing to inject politics into his songs and his shows. In a place like Boulder, that usually goes over well. Although, after the first half of the show on Friday, as the alcohol ingestion of many increased, the politics weren’t as much of a concern for a crowd that pushed to the front to stomp their cowboy boots and dance around drunkenly. That’s a shame, because Earle is one of the more outspoken and interesting performers around.
Earle, perhaps sensing the more party-oriented atmosphere of the Friday night audience, wasn’t above playing up to it. In introducing “Pocket Full of Rain,” he discussed how he used to be an alcoholic and how it affected him, and when one adoring lady hollered out to him, he laughed and said, “I drank and did stupid things, not with her.” Even Earle’s dedication in the first encore of “Remember Me,” a song from his new album, “The Low Highway,” which he wrote for his young son who suffers from autism, seemed to go over the heads of many in the audience.
Much of the show that Earle and his backing band — the Dukes — played consisted of songs from the new album, including the old-timey twang of “Warren Hellman’s Banjo” or the somber country travelogue “Burnin’ It Down.” He also mixed in plenty of old favorites, including a song he originally sung as a duet with Lucinda Williams, “You’re Still Standing There.” Standing in ably on Williams’ part was Eleanor Whitmore, who along with her husband Chris Masterson, opened the show and then did double duty as part of the Dukes for Earle’s set.
At times, the sound mix seemed a little off. On “Guitar Town,” Earle’s voice was buried in the mix, and the band stuttered momentarily before the first chorus as a result. They quickly recovered with the hypnotizing drone of “Copperhead Road,” on which Masterson’s twangy guitar created a lush soundscape for Earle’s raspy voice. Also stepping up from The Dukes was bassist Kelley Looney, who sang and played guitar on “Free Men,” a song from his forthcoming album, while Earle switched to banjo and Whitmore added harmonies on the chorus.
(according to various sites on the Internet, Earle has been playing multi-song encores, so the encore section may be incomplete)
The Low Highway, 21st Century Blues, Calico County, Taneytown, Hard-Core Troubadour, I Thought You Should Know, That All You Got?, Love’s Gonna Blow My Way, After Mardi Gras, Pocket Full of Rain, This City, Bem McCulloch, You’re Still Standing There, Invisible, Burnin’ It Down, Guitar Town, Copperhead Road, Free Men, Warren Hellman’s Banjo, Little Emperor, Billy and Bonnie, Mystery Train Part II, The Galway Girl, Down the Road Pt II ->Down the Road, E: Remember Me
Ty Hyten is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.