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Knuckleheads crowd welcomes Steve Earle and his friend, the blues

Steve Earle
Steve Earle The Associated Press

On his latest album, “Terraplane,” Steve Earle pays homage to the blues, mostly Texas-style and legends like Freddie King and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Wednesday night at Knuckleheads, before a crowd of about 500, Earle performed “Terraplane” nearly in its entirety, casting the blues in its many colors and moods.

He was backed by his four-piece band, the Dukes: Kelly Looney on electric and upright bass; Will Rigby on drums; Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle and other instruments; and Chris Masterson on guitar. Masterson and Whitmore opened the show, performing as the Mastersons.

Their loose, zesty sound is a mix of acoustic blues, country blues and rock. More than once they conjured the Rolling Stones, specifically on “Go Go Boots Are Back,” which rocked to a “Tumbling Dice” vibe.

They opened with four from “Terraplane,” including the lusty “You’re the Best Lover That I Ever Had” and “Baby’s Just as Mean as Me,” a sassy, Texas-swing duet with Whitmore, who embroidered it with some tasty fiddle lines.

The 30-song set list included several of Earle’s best-known and most-loved songs, including “My Old Friend the Blues” and “Goodbye,” which he introduced curtly with: “Divorce sucks,” he said, referring to his latest, No. 7 from singer Allison Moorer.

They also delivered inspired versions of “Some Day,” a lament about small-town living, “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road,” which adapted nicely to its country-blues arrangement. The high-spirited “Galway Girl,” cast in mandolin, fiddle and accordion, prompted some dancing up front and some singing-along all over.

The band took what Earle called a “union break” about halfway through and he performed “South Nashville Blues” solo acoustic. They returned after that to back him on a dark, grimy rendition of “CCKMP (Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain),” which included some lacerating pedal steel guitar from Masterson. Earle added some primal blues harp to “Jerusalem,” which evoked “Exile”-era Stones.

A cover of “Hey Joe” ended the first set. They quickly returned and delivered a bluegrass-y cover of Donovan’s “There Is A Mountain.” After a fiery performance of the clarion call “The Revolution Starts Now,” they ended the five-song encore with an exultant bluesy cover of the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” proving that the blues isn’t always about pain. Sometimes it expresses the joy in a man’s heart.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SET LIST

Baby Baby Baby (Baby); You’re the Best Lover That I Ever Had; Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now; Baby’s Just as Mean as Me; Love’s Gonna Blow My Way; My Old Friend the Blues; Some Day; Guitar Town; Copperhead Road; Goodbye; Sparkle and Shine; I Thought You Should Know; Galway Girl; Little Emperor; Acquainted With The Wind; South Nashville Blues; CCKMP (Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain); Jerusalem; The Usual Time; That All You Got; Go Go Boots Are Back; Better Off Alone; The Tennessee Kid; King of the Blues; Hey Joe. Encore: There Is A Mountain; Down the Road, Part Two; Down the Road; The Revolution Starts Now; Wild Thing.

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