The Low Highway

Steve Earle has a new record out called The Low Highway. I’ve had a love/hate with Earle over the years. Used to love him, but over the last few years have really lost interest in him and his music. I picked this up because he is coming to Missoula again this summer, and I’m thinking about going to see him because I’ve never seen him live. Maybe this will help me decide really where he and I stand, once and for all. Anyway, these are the liner notes to the new album, and there’s a ton here I relate to.

There’s something calling me out there. Always has been, ever since I was old enough to stand out on the highway and stick out my thumb. I was younger than you’re probably thinking when I first discovered that there is, indeed, a space between where we’ve been and where we’re bound and depending on our intentions and our resolve it’s either a vast galaxy filled with the promise of the brightest of all possible futures or the blackest hole in the Universe. I’ve personally peered through through both ends of that telescope and I’m certain of nothing but I’d wager that the last song I ever sing in this world will be low and lonesome and contain at least on reference to a thoroughfare of one sort or another.

My hitchhiking days are long behind me now. I’m an upscale gypsy, flying first class or rolling down the highway in a three quarter of a million dollar bus but there are still nights when I can’t sleep and mornings when I’m up at first light riding shotgun, watching the miles slip beneath vulcanized wheels. I’ve been on every interstate highway in the lower forty-eight states by now and I never get tired of the view.  I’ve seen a pretty good chunk of the world and my well-worn passport is one of my most prized possessions but, for me, there’s still nothing like the first night of a North American tour; everybody, band and crew, crowded up in the front lounge, eating Nashville hot chicken and Betty Herbert’s homemade pimento cheese, swapping the same tired old war stories half shouted over the rattle and hum of the highway.  And I’m always the last one to holler good night to Charlie Quick, the driver, and climb in my bunk because to me it feels like Christmas Eve long ago when I still believed in Santa Claus.  God I love this. And God help me if I ever forget to count my blessings when I walk out on a different stage in a different town night after night to find an audience out there, people who paid hard earned money to hear me sing MY songs! They’ve been coming since 1986 and they’re still coming even in the midst of the hardest times that most folks now living can remember. It’s tough out there, from Maine to San Diego, St. John’s to White Horse, Galway to Helsinki, Byron Bay out to Perth but they always show up and they know every word to every song and sometimes they sing along with me. And because they show up, because YOU show up, I still have a job, when a lot good people, through no fault of their own, don’t.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Good stuff. Maybe my sense that the man has become, with his success and his image (which seems to me often to be so carefully cultivated), a parody of himself, is entirely off base. Not for the first time, I’m hoping I’m wrong.

 

Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

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