* What: Steve Earle with The Mastersons
* When: 8 p.m. today, Oct. 24
* Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
* Admission: $30
* Phone: 423-521-2929
* Website: www.track29.co
Steve Earle loves life on the road as a musician. He enjoys seeing new places, the camaraderie with the band, the actual gig, but he also very much enjoys meeting new people. It was in those encounters with fans along the way that he found inspiration for his latest CD, "The Low Highway."
It's a collection of songs that he describes as very Woody Guthrie-esque for its insight into the current state of everyday America. Earle, who appears tonight, Oct. 24, at Track 29, said one of his favorite albums is The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and he has always believed albums should carry some sort of cohesion throughout like that groundbreaking work did.
"It was the first album I ever bought, so I am very much invested in the album as a whole," he said from San Antonio, Texas. I've written one-offs for projects like movies and TV because I can, but I usually know exactly what a record is about when I start making it."
With "The Low Highway," his 15th CD, he knew he would be singing about what he saw while on the road.
"I realized what I saw out the window was what Woody had seen," he said.
It's an album about people doing what they can to survive, and it is vintage Earle.
In "Invisible" he sings:
"Brother can you spare
A dollar and a dime?
The cupboard's bare and I'm invisible
You won't ever find
A purer heart cause mine's invisible
"The Low Country" is a road album for Earle, but he said it's about things anyone can relate to and not about being a star on a tour bus.
"People don't want to hear you whining because you are riding around in a bus that costs more than their house," he said. "I've known that for my whole career. I could have never written 'Turn the Page' [the Bob Seger song about the ups and downs of life on the road for a musician].
"I've written road songs. I did 'Little Rock 'n' Roller,' and I've had truck drivers come up to me and talk about it. It's about me being on the road and away from my family and missing my kids growing up. Anyone can relate to that.
"That's the trick. My job is empathy, and the job is finding things you can write about that you know firsthand that other people can relate it."
In December, Earle will be part of the John Lennon Charity Tribute concert in New York along with Teddy Thompson, Dana Fuchs, Joan Osborne, Toshi Reagon, Rich Pagano, Raul Malo, Bettye LaVette and Marc Cohn. Earle said being asked to play holds deep meaning for him.
He's especially pleased he will get to perform the two songs he requested: "Cry Baby Cry" and "Working Class Hero." He said he's been performing the former during soundchecks and the latter live for years. Like a lot of people, Earle said his love affair with The Beatles started Feb. 9, 1964, when the band appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
"I was 9 and pretty musically precocious already. My uncle played guitar, but it really begins the day I saw The Beatles, and Lennon is my guy."
It's been several years since he has performed in Chattanooga, but Earle calls the city one of this favorite places to visit, dating back to when he traveled through on his way to the Great Smoky Mountains for family vacations as a child. Today, his middle son and grandson live here.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.