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Steve Earle,Tarrytown Music Hall Make A Good Pair

photo credit: Maria Ives

photo credit: Maria Ives

Music Hot Spots

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Steve Earle and the Tarrytown Music Hall are a good pair, and indeed, Earle and his band The Dukes and Duchesses played the venue just one year ago.

The building is over a hundred years old, sounds great, looks beautiful, and is probably one of the better live venues in the area. But since it doesn’t work with the large promoters, it isn’t well publicized; outside of people who live in the area and die-hard music fans, it’s not a well-known venue. There’s a lot of charm in the fact that the ushers and most of the people who work there are volunteers, but it’s a double edged sword: the Hall would probably make more money if more people knew about it. You get the impression that they’re OK with that.

Steve Earle is similar in some ways: a songwriter so respected that Travis Tritt, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and The Pretenders have all covered his music. While his songs are accessible, he seems more comfortable in community theaters than he would be in arenas. He has a small but loyal core fanbase, and he seems OK with that. While he works hard to get his name out there (including working as an actor on HBO’s The Wire and Treme), he isn’t dulling down the edges on his politically progressive (and sometimes polarizing) lyrics to appeal to a wider audience.

Still promoting last year’s excellent I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (he also has a novel by the same name that came out last year), he opened with the album’s “Waiting On The Sky” and followed with the George W. Bush baiting “Little Emperor” followed by older songs “Train A’ Comin’” and “The Galway Girl.”

After that, he noted the difference in his band from last time they played Tarrytown: the absence of his wife, multi-instrumentalist (and acclaimed solo artist in her own right) Allison Moorer. He noted that this week was their seventh anniversary: “That’s a record for me!” he joked, referencing the fact that this is his seventh marriage. He explained that their child, John Henry, took his first steps in a tour bus, and they decided to get him off the road. Moorer is an important part of the band, playing piano, guitar and mandolin, as well as singing, so they sounded a little thinner than usual. But they still played the quieter songs with grace and empathy and the anthems rocked. Some of those anthems — including “Hardcore Troubadour,” “The Revolution Starts Now,” “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road” and especially “Someday” (all of which he performed) — are equivalent to stadium rockers by Springsteen, Seger, Mellencamp and Petty; it’s puzzling that Earle never got to that level. That point was driven home with his covers of Springsteen (“State Trooper”), Dylan (“It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”) and Woody Guthrie (“This Land Is Your Land”). His songs hold up to those.

After the show, although he clearly wanted to go home to his wife and son (the family now call New York City home) he stayed in the lobby to sign autographs for fans. It’s the type of thing that Springsteen would probably like to do, but it’s no longer practical for him. Maybe Steve Earle is where he is by design.

Steve Earle’s tour takes him through the end of the month. In September, he kicks off a solo acoustic tour that will see him playing The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ, Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ, the Bethel Woods Center of the Arts in Bethel, NY and Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, NY.

– Brian Ives, CBS Local