Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City


SIOUX CITY
SIOUX CITY
844.222.7625
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February 2011
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Information Anthem & Battery Park
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City
111 3rd Street
Sioux City, Iowa 51101

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Sunday-Thursday: 9am-9pm
Friday-Saturday: 9am-Midnight

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Rock Shop: 712-224-7659
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STEVE EARLE

STEVE EARLE
Steve Earle, a man who doesn’t mind telling a story, was talking about the first thing Guy Clark ever said to him.

“It was 1974, I was 19 and I had just hitch-hiked from San
Antonio to Nashville,” Earle said in mid-Texas-cum-Greenwich Village drawl. “Back
then if you wanted to be where the best songwriters were, you had to go to
Nashville. There were a couple of places where you could get on stage, play
your songs. They let you have two drafts, or pass the hat, but you couldn’t do
both.

“If you were from Texas, and serious, Guy Clark was a
king. Everyone knew his songs, ‘Desperados Waiting For A Train,’ ‘LA Freeway,’ he’d
been singing them before they came out on Old No. 1 in 1975.”  

“So I was pretty excited when I went into the club and the
bartender, a friend of mine says, ‘Guy’s here.’ I wanted him to hear me play. I
was doing some of my earliest songs, ‘Ben McCullough’ and ‘The Mercenary Song.’
But he was in the pool room and when I go in there the first thing he says to
me is `I like your hat.’”

While it was a pretty cool hat, Earle remembers, “worn in
just right with some beads I fixed up around it,” Clark did eventually hear his
songs. A few months later he was playing bass in Guy’s band.

“Now, I am a terrible bass player...but I was the kid, and
that was what the kid did. I took over for Rodney Crowell. At that time Gordon
Lightfoot’s ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ was a top ten hit, which was
amazing, a six and half minute story song on the radio. So Guy said, ‘we’re
story song writers, why not us?’ So we went out to cash in on the big wave.”

The success of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ was
not replicated, but Earle reports that being the 19-year-old bass player in Guy
Clark’s band was “a gas.” At least until Earle went into a bar and left the
bass in the back seat of his VW bug, from which it was promptly stolen. “It was
a nice Fender Precision bass that belonged to Guy, the kind of thing that would
be worth ten grand now. He wasn’t so happy about that.”

More than forty years later, Steve Earle, just turned 64,
no longer wears a cowboy hat. “It was more than all the hat acts,” Steve
contended. “My grandmother told me it was impolite to wear a hat indoors.” As
for Guy Clark, he’s dead, passed away in 2016 after a decade long stare-down
with lymphoma. But Earle wasn’t ready to stop thinking about his friend and
mentor.

“No way I could get out of doing this record,” Steve said
when we talked over the phone from Charlotte, North Carolina, that night’s stop
on Earle’s ever peripatetic road dog itinerary. “When I get to the other side,
I didn’t want to run into Guy having made the TOWNES record and not one
about him.”

Townes van Zandt (subject of Earle’s 2009 Townes) and
Guy Clark were “like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to me,” Steve said. The
mercurial Van Zandt (1944-1997) who once ordered his teenage disciple to chain
him to a tree in hopes that it would keep him from drinking, was the On The Road quicksilver
of youth. Clark, 33 at the time Earle met him, was a longer lasting, more
mellow burn.

“When it comes to mentors, I’m glad I had both,” Earle
said. “If you asked Townes what’s it all about, he’d hand you a copy of Bury My Heart at
Wounded Knee. If you asked Guy the same question, he’d take out a
piece of paper and teach you how to diagram a song, what goes where. Townes was
one of the all-time great writers, but he only finished three songs during the
last fifteen years of his life. Guy had cancer and wrote songs until the day he
died...He painted, he built instruments, he owned a guitar shop in the Bay Area
where the young Bobby Weir hung out. He was older and wiser. You hung around
with him and knew why they call what artists do disciplines. Because he was
disciplined.”

“GUY wasn’t really a hard record to make,” Earle said. “We
did it fast, five or six days with almost no overdubbing. I wanted it to sound
live...When you’ve got a catalog like Guy’s and you’re only doing sixteen
tracks, you know each one is going to be strong.”

When he was making TOWNES, Earle recorded “Pancho and
Lefty” first; it was a big record, covered over by no less than Willie Nelson,
Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan. “You had to go into the bar and right away knock
out the biggest guy in the room,” Earle recalled.

With GUY it was a different process. Clark didn’t have that one
career-defining hit, but he wasn’t exactly unknown. “Desperados,” “LA Freeway” were
pre-“Americana” style hits. “New Cut Road” charted for Bobby Bare and was
recorded by Johnny Cash. “Heartbroke” was a # 1 country record for Ricky Skaggs
in 1982. But when you added it up, Clark’s songs wove together into variegated
life tapestry, far more than the sum of the parts.  

Earle and his current, perhaps best ever, bunch of Dukes
take on these songs with a spirit of reverent glee and invention. The tunes are
all over the place and so is the band, offering max energy on such disparate
entries as the bluegrass rave-up “Sis Draper” and talking blues memoir of “Texas
1947.” Earle’s raw vocal on the sweet, sad “That Old Time Feeling” is
heartbreaking, sounding close enough to the grave as to be doing a duet with
his dead friend.

You can hear little hints of where Earle came from. The
stark “Randall Knife” has the line “a better blade that was ever made was
probably forged in Hell,” which wouldn’t be out of place in a Steve Earle song.
Also hard to beat is “The Last Gunfighter,” a sardonic western saga to which
Earle offers a bravura reading of the  chorus: “the smell of the black
powder smoke and the stand in the street at the turn of joke.”

But in the end GUY leads the listener back to its
beginning, namely Guy Clark, which is what any good “tribute” should do.  

Indeed, it was a revelation to dial up a video of Guy
Clark singing “Desperados Waiting For A Train” on Austin City Limits sometime
in the 1980’s. Looking as handsome as any man ever was in his bluegrass suit
and still brown, flowing hair, Clark sings of a relationship between a young
man and an older friend. Saying how the elder man “taught me how to drive his
car when he was too drunk to,” the young narrator describes a halcyon fantasy
in which he and friend were always “desperados waiting for a train.” As time
passes, however, the young man despairs. To him, his friend is “one on the
heroes of this country.” So why is he “dressed up like some old man?”  

Steve Earle delivers these lines well, as he always does.
But the author of “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road,” “Transcendental Blues” and
a hundred more masterpiece songs, would be the first to tell you it is one
thing to perform “Desperados Waiting For Train” and another to be its creator.
There are plenty of covers better than the original. But “Desperados...” will
forever reside with Guy Clark, the songwriter singing his song, just him and
his guitar. That is the main thing GUY has to tell you: to remember the
cornerstone, never forget where you came from.

There was another reason, Earle said, he couldn’t “get out
of” making GUY.
“You know,” he said, “as you live your life, you pile up these
regrets. I’ve done a lot of things that might be regrettable, but most of them
I don’t regret because I realize I couldn’t have done anything else at the
time.”

“With GUY, however, there was this thing. When he was sick---he
was dying really for the last ten years of his life---he asked me if we could
write a song together. We should do it ‘for the grandkids,’ he said. Well, I
don’t know...at the time, I still didn’t co-write much, then I got busy. Then
Guy died and it was too late. That, I regret.”

Earle didn’t think making GUY paid off some debt, as
if it really could. Like the Townes record, Guy is
a saga of friendship, its ups and downs, what endures. It is lucky for us that
Earle remembers and honors these things, because like old friends, GUY is
a diamond.
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