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Earle remains welcome in Boston

City Winery Boston, Boston, January 23, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Steve Earle is no stranger to Boston as this was his fourth time playing Beantown since last February. That would include a similar residency at the same venue last February, a summer tour with Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams and a benefit for immigrants with the likes of Emmylou Harris in October.

Fortunately, Earle has never overstayed his welcome. That remained the case at this solo acoustic gig in an intimate setting with songs very old and not even released in his repertoire.

Earle varied his set sufficiently over the course of 110 minutes with country rock (the closing "Copperhead Road" on mandolin), acoustic blues (the lead-off "Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now" and the always lovely "My Old Friend the Blues"), Celtic ("Galway Girl") and more straight ahead country ("Guitar Town").

Some of the songs were three decades old, but no matter. They sounded as fresh now as they did then even if Earle's voice has weathered a bit over time.

Earle has a new album, "GUY," dropping the end of March. Following up on his disc dedicated to another one of his songwriting heroes, Townes Van Zandt, this one pays homage to the late great Guy Clark. Earle played only "Desperados Waiting for a Train," from the release, but the ties that bind were obvious.

Earle has proven himself over the course of three decades as being in the same league as his musical heroes.

Earle looked ahead to an even more distant release to come with his playing of "John Henry Steel Driving Man." The song was a keeper.

A concert with Earle is not complete without some contemplation of politics. Most certainly on the liberal side, Earle said he was working on an album due in 2020 aimed at those in the middle with the hope that Americans can create a better understanding of each other.

The well-delivered "City of Immigrants" made it clear where Earle stood on that issue. "All of us are immigrants/Every daughter, every son/Everyone is everyone/ All of us are immigrants - everyone," sang Earle. In this day and age where many on the country side are afraid to state where they stand, that has never been a problem for Earle.

For all of the seriousness of Earle's songs, Earle has a keen sense of humor and was a good raconteur. He certainly was unafraid to poke fun at himself either, telling a funny story before playing "The Devil's Right Hand" about the perils of raising his son (and fellow musician) Justin Townes Earle to the point that he had to be sent to boot camp in Nashville and the fact that he has not been lucky in love (Earle has been married seven times, including twice to one wife!)

Life has not always been easy or upbeat for Earle, but when it comes to the chance to see Earle in concert...well, that's a different story. Earle seemingly has overcome or at least is working on his demons. Who knows? Maybe it's made him who he is musically. Once again, Earle ably showed why he is always welcome in Boston.