Steve Earle – Live at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (With the Bluegrass Dukes)

See, I’m far more partial to this because while live acoustic albums from singer-songwriters are so common you might have to check around to find an old-timer without one, live bluegrass albums are rarer than a really uncommon thing.

So it’s pretty well bootleg quality, recorded somewhere where you can here a decent amount of crowd chatter. It’s recorded at some festival in New York, I presume, as Steve says that he moved to the city in order to go somewhere where he could see “a mixed-race same-sex couple holding hands; makes me feel safer,” so the crowd’s quite receptive to his peacenik songs while still loving that it’s bluegrass. I like bluegrass too, just not as much, so it works.

It’s heavy on songs from his bluegrass album and the recent peacenik albums, with a few traditionals and a couple songs written by members of the band thrown in. The album songs don’t get any better for being live and the non-bluegrass songs suffer a bit for being bluegrassed, but the traditionals are the best part of the deal. Well, that and hearing Steve’s charming stories (one of which he reproduces verbatim from “Just An American Boy”) and listening to the only Steve Earle album ever where the biggest crowd pop is for the barn-stomping “Carrie Brown.”

Speaking of which, let me tell this true story from when I was a kid, and I hope I haven’t told it elsewhere on the site. I may have, because it’s such a silly story. I was at this hoedown when I was seven or eight, in this barn in the country. See, my dad moved to the country when I was four or five, so I spent a good amount of time out there. It was quite the hoedown, with a live bluegrass band and dancing old people and, most importantly, the most kickass tire swing that swung from one rafter to another. It swung fast, and high, and scary, and I wanted to do nothing but ride it over and over. So I did as much as I could, for as long as I could. Until at some point the music stopped, and my dad and stepmom came and got me and told me someone had died. And sure enough, an 87-year-old man had suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack while dancing and was dead before he hit the ground. And so I saw my first dead body. The ambulance that showed up didn’t bother with CPR, the guy was too far gone. So it was a sombre atmosphere for all involved. Except me, who sneaked off to go on the tire swing again. Dad was pretty mad when he caught me and dragged me to the car, but I was just a kid! And that’s the story.

So I mean, yeah, great, but I recommend “The Mountain” by a mile.

7/10

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