Rockin’ for a Free World

Steve Earle with Alison Moorer. At Campbell Hall, Wednesday,
October 11.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Steve-Earle.jpgSteve Earle carries on an American
tradition that’s at least as old as Woody Guthrie, and he does so
with the strength, conviction, and humanity of a true American
hero. He may have won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Contemporary Folk
Album, but unless “contemporary folk” is a euphemism for rocking
protest and alternately tender and brutal songwriting — which would
be great — he is more deserving of a Grammy for Best Contemporary
Protest Singer. Oh well, I suppose Grammy knows best, and if we
have the music, what more could we want?

But there is more, or Moorer, as in Alison, Earle’s new bride
and the sister of alt-country star Shelby Lynne. Moorer opened for
her husband with a lovely set in his same style of presentation,
with bare-bones solo acoustic guitar and vocals. She has a great
voice, a new album of all original songs, and a stunning cover
version of the Sam Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Unlike
Aretha Franklin, who softens the toughest verse — the one about “my
brother” who “winds up knocking me right back down on my
knees,” — Moorer sails right into it and then lets out a musical
wail that sends shivers down my neck just thinking about it.

Steve Earle got things going with a song called “Fuck the FCC,”
kind of just to let you know where he’s at these days. Afterward he
apologized to “anyone who brought their kids with them tonight,”
but then plunged on to say, “Who would you rather they learned to
curse from, me or Dick Cheney?” Although he did not play the title
track from his Grammy-winning The Revolution Starts … Now, he did
sing and speak to the current political situation in this country
and the world with a fire and urgency that is unique in the music
industry today. Other show highlights included a short visit for
backing vocals from Moorer’s celebrity sis Shelby, and Earle’s
trademark barnburners, including “My Old Friend the Blues.”


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