27 Mar 2016

Steve Earle - Tribute to the Blues

From Sunday Morning, 10:06 am on 27 March 2016

US singer, songwriter and activist Steve Earle regularly comes to New Zealand to play his music - and catch fish.

Steve Earle

[thumbnail:63367:full] Photo: Supplied

Speaking to Sunday Morning, he said he kept his gear in Turangi and described fly fishing in little rivers on the sides of Mt Tongariro like "fishing in Jurassic Park".

He is drawn by the beauty of rivers: "Trout don't live in ugly places."

One of the big "visionary" voices in American music, Earle traverses country, folk and bluegrass as well as blues, and his songs have been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.

He rose to prominence with genre-busting 1986 album Guitar Town, and his albums have garnered him three Grammy awards.

He has just released his 16th studio album with his band, The Dukes, called Terraplane.

In it, he pays tribute to the blues, influenced by the giants of the genre he saw growing up in Texas: Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny Winter, Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Canned Heat and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

The bar was high for blues players growing up in Texas, he said.

Asked to define different blues styles, Earle said he was a folk singer and musicologist at heart and wanted to cover the whole range.

"Blues' oldest roots are not in self-taught primitive music from the (Mississippi) Delta - the guys in the Delta were listening to music made early in the 20th century - bands that were playing and sheet music that was being written before there were even records.

"When records finally started getting recorded the blues already existed - it was about a certain scale that could be played."

Steve Earle and the Dukes are playing at The Tuning Fork, Vector Arena, Auckland on Tuesday 29 March.