STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES
Last year's El Corazon (Warner Brothers) was far from Steve Earle's best record, but none of his other albums have so accurately reflected his musical schizophrenia. He's played the brooding folksinger, the alt-country pioneer, the next Bruce Springsteen, the redneck outlaw, the volatile drug casualty, the neotraditionalist, and the reborn rocker--hell, he's put on more guises than he's put out records. El Corazon, which featured both bluegrass heavy Del McCoury and punk-rock puds the Supersuckers, revisited almost every one of 'em and threw in a few more for good measure, including the exuberant trad bluegrass of "I Still Carry You Around," the gospel fervor of "Telephone Road," the awkward hard rock of "N.Y.C.," and the Texas-bard traditionalism of "Ft. Worth Blues." Eclecticism works for some--see my Critic's Choice on the Blazers--but El Corazon didn't flow well, sounding like a hastily assembled compilation rather than the work of a single artist. For this and other reasons--like Earle's notorious moodiness--seeing him live is always a risky proposition, but when he's on, he's hard to top, and he has more than enough timeless originals in his catalog to put together a terrific set. Plus, not only is the masterful honky-tonk guitarist Buddy Miller playing in Earle's band, but along with his talented singer-songwriter wife, Julie, he'll open the show. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Crump-RSP.