Song downloads at the bottom-- don't miss them!
First, the food porn: My parents and I met at Pinot Hollywood, an old and classy restaurant which I hadn't been to for about six years. It has two huge mirrors on the wall, which provided a startling moment when a waitress opened one and stepped through-- they're actually doors to the wine cellar.
There was a special Valentine's Day preview menu with four courses, which I ordered with the intent of mixing and matching with my parents' orders. So I traded my stepmother a goat cheese and roasted tomato terrine for a bowl of "melted" onion soup with the onions cooked down to sweetness, and we all shared a purple endive salad and a salad with greens, bacon, and pickled white asparagus. For the main course, my stepmother had the sea bass, which was rich yet delicate (I had a bite), I had the herb-crusted filet mignon with mashed potatos and carrots, and dad had the lamb loin. The waiters switched Dad and my orders, but what we got was so good (and we're so absent-minded) that we gobbled down half our plates before we realized what had happened and switched them. Since we were planning to share anyway, no harm, no foul. For dessert, I had a luscious vanilla mousse studded with strawberries, my stepmother had a brownie with mint ice cream, and Dad had vanilla, pistachio, and chocolate mini-creme brulees. To drink, I had a Cosmopolitan with dinner and coffee after.Steve Earle
is a singer-songwriter from Scherz, Texas. He says his childhood consisted of getting beaten up by rednecks named Otto. You'd call most of what he does country-rock, but his albums are tremendously varied, from hard-rockers to ballads to bluegrass. He writes terrific story songs, beautiful love songs, and fiery political albums. He's a leftist activist, and the energy of his concerts makes me think of what I've heard Bruce Springsteen was like when he was younger. Steve Earle keeps singing till the club shuts down. He has an engaging, badass, rousing stage presence, and you can see why women like him (he's been married six times and counting.) He can also be quite funny.
He started his set with a series of blazing hard rock songs with his band, The Dukes-- "The Revolution Starts Now," "Ashes to Ashes," "Copperhead Road," the brilliant story song "Taneytown," and about six more that I don't remember. Oh, and he managed to sing the only song he's written that I really detest, the misogynistic and embarrassing "Condi." Then he played "Christmas in Washington," said we got our asses kicked in the last election but the game isn't over, and encouraged us to keep fighting. He said it had been good to go out of the country on tour and "get a look at the debacle from outside of the insane asylum." He sang a beautiful version of "Jerusalem," which I wish I could link to but for some reason that album is not downloading. I think a couple of his songs were new-- I'd never heard them before.
For an encore, he sang "Galway Girl," dueted on the traditional "Carrickfergus" and his own "You're Still Standing There" with opening act/girlfriend Alison Moore, and sang a Rolling Stones song I didn't know and some obscure sixties song which I also didn't know, but my Dad said had been really popular back then. We got out at the stroke of midnight.
Links are to song downloads-- get them now, they'll only be up for seven days. Ellis Unit One
is from the compilation album Dead Man Walking
, which also has terrific songs from Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, and Tom Waits-- and this is the best song on the album. It's a classic example of great art coming from politics, and people will still be listening to it long after the death penalty, one way or another, is no longer an issue. It's heartbreaking, a wonderful example of the power of looking an issue from an unexpected point of view, and makes brilliant use of a snippet of a very old song. Taneytown
is another story song, from the excellent album El Corazon
. It's from the point of view of a young black man who doesn't seem to be quite all there mentally, and I can't believe Earle pulls that off without sounding like an ass, but he does. The duet vocal is by Emmylou Harris. I love the dissonant opening chords.I Feel Alright
, from the also-excellent album of the same name, was inspired by Earle's time in jail after he hit bottom as a junkie. It's a crackling, defiant rocker about coming back from disaster, better and stronger and unashamed. You're Still Standing There
, a gorgeous, very country duet with Lucinda Williams. They sound like they're related. Also from I Feel Alright. The Devil's Right Hand
. Showcases Earle's unusual accent-- well, it sounds unusual to me, but maybe it's your basic Shertz, Texas. A classic badass country song in the tradition of "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." The switch in word referring to the victim in the line beginning, "I shot the dog down..." is one of my favorite subtle songwriting moments. From what I and many people think is Earle's best album, Copperhead Road
.Johnny Come Lately
. Also from Copperhead Road
, this is one of my all-time favorite story songs. I may discuss why in a later post after you've all listened to it, but to explain exactly what literary devices it uses to such brilliant effect would involve massive spoilers. Download, and pay attention to the lyrics. The backing band is the Pogues!
Further album recommendations: Jerusalem
has some misfires, but its best songs-- the beautiful "Jerusalem," "John Walker's Blues", and the bleak yet strangely comforting "Ashes to Ashes" are brilliant. Transcendental Blues
and Exile 0
are excellent, solid albums with lots of good songs and no clunkers. The Mountain
is a bluegrass album. The title song and "Dixieland" are two of Earle's best, but a lot of the rest of the album is mostly appealing if you already like bluegrass, which I don't particularly.Train A Coming
is a very good acoustic album with a lot of covers of people like Townes Van Zandt.
I don't recommend The Revolution Starts Now
unless you're a completist, and though lots of people really like the early albums Guitar Town
and The Hard Way
they're not my favorites. The live album Shut up and Die Like an Aviator
doesn't really capture the fire of his concerts.