Mortaljive: The Rest is Silence

There is no still point in all the Universe, and that is the rock upon which I stand

Monday, June 13, 2011

Steve Earle Double Shot

Steve Earle reads from his book "I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive"

Back in May, Donna (aka Mrs. Jivester) went with my-own-self to listen to Steve Earle read from his first novel, "I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive" at Powell's Books Cedar Hills location in Beaverton, Oregon. The book is set in San Antonio, TX right around November 22nd, 1963. The main protagonist (Doc) is a defrocked doctor/junkie in his early 50s who provides medical care for the prostitutes and druggies who inhabit the poorer section of town--he also performs abortions, followed by runs to his supplier for his junk. For added amusement he has conversations with the ghost of Hank Williams, who though spectral is real enough, as far as ghosts go. I have a deal with my Mrs. to read the book aloud to her, which slows down my progress but what can I do? If Hank Williams can be a ghost, I can at the least give vapors form, making word-angels out of the air that had recently resided in my lungs, and all in the company of my lady.

mjs, who is mortaljive, who is Frank, with Mr. Steve Earle

Donna with Book Reading Swag

Last Friday night Donna and I went to the Steve Earle & the Dukes concert at the Crystal Ballroom--we had never been to this McMenamin's landmark venue, and enjoyed it very much. This was just the group's second stop on a tour that goes on into Autumn, and I can only wonder at Earle's ability to keep his voice from going into the ditch--he drove it through song after song, and though his range is not wide its force is deep and long. The audience stood up for the duration of two encores, and Earle obliged with wonderful music, some new and some more familiar.

The interior of the Crystal Ballroom is roomy, with a floor that is a combination of retro ballroom and fun house mirror...

Steve Earle and his wife Allison Moorer

He also took occasion to speak about issues close to his heart, making special mention of the great Corporate War Machine our nation is beholden to, and why he still has optimism in the face of powerful, vested forces who wield power cruelly for profits. His wife, the comely Allison Moorer, moved about the stage as gracefully as she could, being as how she was wearing steeply arched high heels--she played a variety of instruments, even taking lead singer duties while her husband had a break. I would like to hear her bust out more (she possesses a powerful voice mostly held in check) : she is demure to a fault, but when she let her leopard out she really came alive.

Allison Moorer

Earle sang a plethora of material yet still did not put too much of a dent in his song catalog. Years ago he could have gone the way of Townes Van Zandt and destroyed himself with booze or heroin or what-have-you but instead got "in the program" and has fought for his sobriety with determination and pluck, and a creative fire that burns brightly to this day. Besides being a talented writer, accomplished musician and actor (he has a small recurring role on Treme on HBO) he is also an outspoken critic of the death penalty (his "Ellis Unit One" can be heard on the soundtrack for Dead Man Walking) and can stand in front of an audience and speak knowingly about Emma Goldman and Joe Hill, about the crushing effects of corporate dominance on labor, and how this struggle is an ancient one--and one worth fighting for. Yes, Steve Earle did sermonize a bit on Friday night in Portland (a city he praised for having taken some measure of control of its own destiny) but he put on a hell of a show, ably backed by the Dukes (including The Mastersons) and I for one am grateful he didn't buy his grave too early in this world: by the looks and sound of things he's still got a whole lot of gas left in his tank.

Here's a link to another review of Friday evening at the Crystal Ballroom. If you get a chance try and see him this tour--maybe he's coming to a city near you.


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