Steve Earle @ Sellersville Theater

SELLERSVILLE, PA—Steve Earle spoke his heart and mind tonight as we all sang “Christmas In Washington” on Steve’s 62nd birthday. “I was in Canada during the election,” he said. “Good thing you can’t buy a gun in Canada or I would’ve shot myself.” He philosophized that “America has always had a Birth Defect. It’s called slavery. And the rich white farmers who didn’t want to their pay their taxes—but wrote one great Constitution—certainly wanted to keep their slaves. America still had slaves long after European countries were abolishing the practice. It’s just who we are. It took a fucking war to end it here.

“So sing out. Loud! Then go home, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up tomorrow prepared to fight.” So we sang alright. At that moment, it felt like a Pete Seeger concert.


“So come back Emma Goldman

Rise up old Joe Hill

The barricades are goin’ up

They cannot break our will

Come back to us Malcolm X

And Martin Luther King

We’re marching into Selma

As the bells of freedom ring.


“So come back Woody Guthrie

Come back to us now

Tear your eyes from paradise

And rise again somehow

If you run into Elvis

Maybe he can help us out

Come back Woody Guthrie to us now.”
And with that, he took his trusty guitar, wiped his hands on his cleanest dirty shirt, and stumbled off the stage to meet the night. He actually apologized for the attire. “I slept in these clothes last night,” he admitted, “but hell, I performed throughout the ‘80s like this so…”

Steve Earle sang ‘em all strong and the 300+ in the intimate venue with the perfect acoustics were mesmerized, even a little too polite. But he knew we were listening and he knew to do “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road,” and “The Devil’s Right Hand” (and when he sang line the he “shot the dog down,” he punctuated it with a flying fist). The response to those early hits was visceral and he admitted, “I wrote that when I was 20. Listening to it now, it sounds like something a 20-year-old would write. Here’s something a 62-year-old would write. And with that, he performed one of the new songs that will be on his eagerly anticipated So You Wanna Be A Cowboy album due this June. It was a farewell to his teacher, Guy Clark, one of many heroes who didn’t it make out of 2016 alive. “He taught me everything I know” was the intro. Post-song he told the story of how he took Clark’s ashes to writer Terry Allen’s house where it still sits on a bookshelf.

He did some blues and he talked about when he first got to Nashville. I’d never seen him so conversational and outgoing. He made it seem as if we were all sitting around in his front parlor. I shouted for “Billy Austin” and “Down In The Hole” but he wasn’t taking any requests. His new duet CD with Shawn Colvin, Colvin & Earle, is a lighthearted romp (despite nine divorces and two addictions between them). He does bear the burden of parenting an autistic child, John Henry Earle, and he told the story of taking John Henry to see spiritual leader Ram Dass, now 85. “I thought it would be good for my son and it turned out to be good for Ram Dass who really seemed to love my kid.”

If John Prine is our Will Rogers and Willie is our Bard, Steve is our conscience.


Show date: Jan. 17, 2017