"If you buy me a strong drink of whiskey/I will tell you the tale of my life/It's long and it's sad but it fits me/And it may bring a tear to your eye"
I once learned a valuable lesson from one of my all time favorite cheapo employees, Mike Nordgaard. Mike and I worked many shifts, both early morning and late night, together. Back in those days this company seemed to have a shortage of working writing utensils. So both Mike and I were careful keeping the valuable scarce commodity on our person. Mike used to wear his pen behind his ear like an erstwhile carpenter, and I soon picked up on the habit.
The other day I was thoughtlessly doing the habitual when I noticed the ball-point pen I carry around doesn't fit so snugly behind my ear anymore. Since it's unlikely they are making pens sleeker these days it dawned on me that with the passing years another sign of aging is that my ears are getting looser.
Yup, when you get to be my age certain things don't work like they used to. Now days I have to get to bed by a certain time or else the pumpkin bursts and the slippers don't fit so comfortably the next day. Thus there have been some recent concerts that I would have dropped my last buck on in the past but now that I can afford to go monetarily, I find I can't afford to go physically. One was the recent Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson concert in Rochester. The other was at the Minnesota Zoo- an equally intriguing double billing featuring John Hiatt and Steve Earle.
I was a Steve Earle fan before he went to jail. Earle was my last non-feline full time roommate, Pistol Pete's, the pharmacist (who is the one person who could literally claim to have saved my life), favorite artist. We'd take turns playing CDs during the evenings when he was studying and I was writing and after my Dylan CD was done playing Pete would inevitably put on an Earle CD (usually Guitar Town or Copperhead Road) and I gotta admit I didn't complain one bit when he did.
Earle's post jail CDs (he was busted for possessing heroin in the 1990's) like I Feel Alright and El Corazon prove that as an artist he continues to grow and continues to have much to say.
His latest effort The Revolution Starts Now is the best CD I've heard this year. As the liner notes tell us, Earle recorded the CD quickly to capture the immediacy of the politically inspired songs. Most of the songs were written after the prisoner abuse scandal had broken and the 9/11 commission hearings were demonstrating that a lot of someone's, particularly those in the current administration dropped the ball in protecting this country.
For such a quickly produced CD, the whole thing really holds together and has several sparkling moments including the sweet duet with Emmylou Harris on "Comin Around" that concludes with a most convincing statement, "Finally layin' my burden down." The title track opens and closes the CD and the Beatleish melody and arrangement effectively embellishes the call to take back the country and get us off this path we seem to be numbly stumbling down.
The diatribe of "F the CC" is the most effective use of the "F" word ever put to song. "It just gets tougher every day/to sit around and watch it while it slips away..." It's a singalong, scream at the top of your lungs while you're stuck in rush hour traffic type of ditty.
Of course the most indispensable song of the set is "Condi Condi" a most amusing cum on song directed at our beloved National Security Council advisor. My friend, the Student, says it sounds as if Earle is propositioning a hooker, and tho I don't know nothing about that I must admit I can't get the catchy banana boat-like song out of my head. The singer is somehow sincerely yet sarcastically telling Ms. Rice that she has to give him a chance and come out and have just a little fun. "Dance around me spinnin like a top/Oh Condi Condi Condi don't ever stop." Listening to the song one can't help but realize that if those in charge had even a smidgen of Earle's sensibilities we'd be in a far different but no doubt better place. Not that is even a remote possibility in the next four years.