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.
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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.
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.