by Andrew Crisp
Musicians who leave Texas never forget its charm. That sentiment was echoed by former Lone Star state native Steve Earle and his tour mates The Mastersons at the Egyptian Theatre July 31.
"Chris and I live in Brooklyn, New York," said Eleanor Whitmore, standing beside her husband Chris Masterson. "We can never quite get used to shoveling the snow up there."
Then the folk country duo launched into "Birds Fly South," their harmonizing voices intertwining much the same as their guitars. "We'll head out west / straight towards the sun," they sang.
The duo played a quiet, heartfelt set, with Masterson sauntering over to his wife's microphone at intervals to warble closer to her lips.
But the evening's main act, Steve Earle, upped the energy. Early in his set, the space before the stage became a makeshift dance hall. When he launched into his best-known track, "Copperhead Road," the crowd swelled and the whole bottom section of the venue took to its feet.
Earle shared the stage with his supporting band, The Dukes, joined by Whitmore and Masterson, who played various assorted instruments for Earle throughout the evening.
No fewer than 20 instruments stood at different points on the stage. Earle's cadre of guitars was perched in a black box, labeled "Steve Earle" with a piece of masking tape. Below that was a second piece which read "Guitar World." A stage hand tuned the guitars off at stage right, scurrying between the musicians to deliver guitars, mandolins and fiddles when necessary.
But while the Mastersons expressed their love for Texas, Earle had less love for the conservative-minded individuals of his home state.
"Trade unions are an essential part of democracy," said Earle early in his performance, to a large cheer from the audience.
He spent time on other asides about immigration, abortion, health care, Republicans and his thoughts on Barack Obama's presidency.
But Woody Guthrie—for whom Earle's latest album, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, is dedicated—was his final topic. And a cover of Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" served as his final song.
"Music can change the world," said Earle. "But not just listening to music. If you want to change the world, it's necessary that you sing. And sing loud."