The Many Muses of Steve Earle

Former Texan Steve Earle has managed to ascend the pop-culture ladder to almost legendary heights since he left Houston as a teenager in the 1970s. Judging by the quantity of his output alone, it's easy to assume the formerly incarcerated, now-rehabilitated drug addict is merely displaying the obsessive zeal that he once held for chemical thrills.

This is especially true when one looks upon Earle's myriad artistic outlets over the past decade, where he continues to identify new ways to tell the stories that breed within his restless spirit.

One would be hard-pressed to name an artist traversing as many imaginative paths as Earle currently does. Whether it's playwriting, hosting a radio show, authoring fiction, appearing in an acclaimed television series or creating Grammy-winning records, Earle has used his imaginative pen to carve out his wildly varied space. As an outspoken opponent of all things politically conservative, Earle has also employed his sharp social consciousness to shape much of his work, to varying degrees of commercial and artistic success.

And in keeping up with his artistically prolific nature, Earle also seemingly enjoys weddings a tremendous amount. His current wife, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, who's as talented as she is beautiful, represents wife number seven for the bearded multi-tasker.

With Earle and a reconfigured edition of his long-time touring band, the Dukes, hitting the road this summer, we thought it time to give a few of Earle's endeavors a closer look.

As an author...

Understatement Alert: Steve Earle's a pretty decent writer. Now with two published works of fiction to his name, it's clear that Earle's storytelling can last longer than four or five minutes. In all actuality, his addictive short-story collection Doghouse Roses probably drew too much from Earle's personal, troubled history to be considered fully fictional. Even his new album-companion novel, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, while not autobiographical, also deals in so many of the things that Earle knows all too well—drugs, pain and being ostracized. Both books are compelling, and very telling, in their fine, dark details.

As an actor...

Judging from the on-screen evidence, Earle must be one of two things to David Simon, creator of the landmark HBO series The Wire and more recently, Treme—a thuggish bookie to whom Simon owes more money than he'll ever be able to repay, or, perhaps more likely, Simon's equivalent to the earthly Rastafarian god Haile Selassie I. It's not his best work, though. Considering the ripped-from-the-headlines-of-his-life roles that he's been handed by Simon on his shows, Earle should've blossomed as a thespian. Instead, his inability to come across naturally as a former junkie in The Wire or as a folk-loving musician in Treme is as baffling as it is awkward to watch.

As a musician...

Without question, Earle's music is what has provided him the opportunities to follow so many other muses. Whereas the jury is still out on how he'll be remembered as an author or actor, few living songwriters can boast the credentials of the oft-described "Hardcore Troubadour." Three of Earle's last four albums, beginning with the Bush-bashing powerhouse, The Revolution Starts Now, have netted him Grammy awards, not to mention that the last five years have seen him successfully reinvent himself as a Greenwich-loving folkie. This from the man who helped usher amped-up alt-country into the public consciousness in the late 1980s with the still-revered album Guitar Town and the constantly covered ode to runnin' shine, "Copperhead Road." His just-released T Bone Burnett-produced I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is a return to a more countrified sound, and surely gives him a legitimate shot at another Grammy nod.

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