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Late Night FDL: Copperhead Road

Steve Earle – Copperhead Road

Steve Earle has a new album out, Terraplane…

Steve Earle’s got the blues.

The country-folk-rock renegade revisited the blues of his native Texas on his new disc Terraplane at the same time the 60-year-old was divorcing his seventh wife — alt-country artist Allison Moorer, with whom he has a son (John Henry, who is nearly five).

In other words, it’s no coincidence the new album, recorded with his longtime backup band the Dukes, features the standout song, Better Off Alone.

“It’s not that they (the new album and his divorce) don’t have anything to do with each other, but it also is really not anybody else’s business except for what’s on the record when it comes right down to it,” said Earle, who appears on David Letterman on Feb. 23. {…}

When did you first remember hearing the blues?

Probably 1968 when I was 13. … I saw Canned Heat in 1968, the second concert I ever went to. It was in San Antonio, it would have been at the World Fairgrounds. I forget what the name of the venue was. It was an auditorium they built there … I’d never seen anything like (Canned Heat) before.

Was that a seminal music moment for you?

Those guys were musicologists and they were record collectors and so I learned about (blues pioneer) John Lee Hooker from Canned Heat. … And I sort of had enough musicology starting to develop in me just from some of the other music that I listened to so that, by 1969, I was playing a coffeehouse called The Gatehouse and I started meeting folk singers.

How comfortable are you playing the blues?

The acoustic part of it I’m fairly comfortable with. The electric stuff is more intimidating. Because I knew Stevie Ray Vaughan, I know Charlie Musselwhite for that matter. My harmonica playing got better the last ten years or so … and this record I do it on a couple of songs. It was sort of the beginning of this. … I just found myself writing the songs and I said, ‘OK, this must be a blues record. It must be time to do this.’ {…}

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