Veteran Americana artists Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle bring their combined tour to Madison this Saturday, July 30th, at the Capitol Theater (in the Overture Center). The pair toured together in 2014, leading to their collaboration on a gritty, nostalgic new album: Colvin & Earle (Fantasy Records), released in June 2016.
A compact compilation of ten songs, Colvin & Earle features six numbers co-written by Shawn and Steve. They range from catchy hillbilly rocker “Come What May” to the rootsy acoustic “Happy and Free” and the folk-gospel “Tell Moses.” The collection was recorded in Nashville, in just two weeks, at the home studio of artist/producer Buddy Miller, whose wife Julie Miller shares writing credit on the closing track, “You’re Still Gone.”
These genre-bending singer-songwriters also cover a quartet of beautiful tunes by other artists. Emmylou Harris’s “Raise the Dead” summons the troubled ghosts of Hank Williams, Sam Cooke and Robert Johnson. Colvin and Earle embrace their childhood era (they’re now 60 & 61 years old, respectively) by taking on The Rolling Stones’ youthful lament “Ruby Tuesday” as well as a pair of mid-’60s classics: John D. Loudermilk’s autobiographical “Tobacco Road,” a Top Twenty hit for UK band The Nashville Teens in 1964; and Sylvia Fricke’s (Ian & Sylvia) sunnier “You Were on My Mind,” a huge uptempo hit for We Five in 1965.
Guitarist Colvin’s gentle vocal delivery complements Earle’s rougher edges in every performance. In addition to singing, Steve plays guitar, mandolin, mandocello, bouzouki and harmonica. They’re backed by five other musicians, including Miller, and should have a similar bass, guitar and drums line-up in concert.
Colvin & Earle first shared a bill around 1986, when Steve’s breakthrough alt-country album Guitar Town was released. Shawn Colvin went on to win Grammy awards for Song and Record of the Year in 1998 for “Sunny Came Home” (1997). Both artists have battled private demons, from depression to alcoholism, as Shawn Colvin discusses with humor in her memoir Diamond in the Rough (2012). Colvin also played a guest character on Treme and voiced another one on The Simpsons.
The versatile musical artist and record producer Earle has published a play as well as two books of fiction. He’s acted in a pair of landmark television shows, The Wire and Treme, and is a devoted anti-death penalty advocate. Steve’s son Justin Townes Earle has built a large following since releasing his debut Americana record in 2009.
Given the vast catalog of their own songs they have to draw on, Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle should easily please audiences on this Colvin & Earle tour. Come and see for yourself this Saturday night at the Capitol Theater in Madison. WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio (always live streaming at http://www.wortfm.org) is proud to help True Endeavors publicize this show, featuring a fantastic duo of folk-rock heroes.
If you’re still not convinced, check out these three links. This is an appreciative NPR review of the new collaborative Colvin & Earle album:
Here’s an example of Steve Earle’s lefty political songwriting:
And, finally, my review of the compelling Steve Earle & the Dukes show in Madison last August: