Photo by Ted Barron
For album number sixteen, Terraplane, Texas folk legend Steve Earle set out to make a blues record. “It’s an intimidating thing to do if you come from [Texas],” Earle told KUTX’s Jay Trachtenberg recently, alluding to infamous Texas bluesmen like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Mance Lipscomb. But Earle is nothing if not reverent towards his forbears. In 2009, he released an album-length ode to his personal mentor, Townes Van Zandt, and he’s quick to tip his hat to his influences when he’s personally lauded for his own songwriting.
As much as the blues are about instrumental virtuosity, Earle explicitly states that he was drawn to the genre for the songs themselves: Robert Johnson’s metaphysical ruminations, or Howlin’ Wolf’s juke-joint explosions. Earle himself is not the best guitar player, but he has a feel for atmosphere that a shredding blues solo can’t touch. In our Studio 1A, Earle stripped down several Terraplane songs to their acoustic core. On “King Of The Blues,” he revels in the dark side inherent in so much of the blues tradition.