Singer-songwriter Steve Earle has said that he and touring and recording partner Shawn Colvin don’t plan who’ll sing which line of a song they sing together or which lines they’ll sing in unison. For less talented musicians, that might spell disaster.
But for these two veterans, their unconventional approach works perfectly on their new album, Colvin & Earle
, a collection of covers and original tracks.
And it worked perfectly last night when the two performed before a capacity crowd at Music Box Supper Club where they delivered an engaging, nearly two-hour set of stories and songs.
Dressed in jeans, a black vest and boots, Earle looked like a biker while Colvin, who wore a red blouse and jeans, resembled a schoolteacher. But as much as the two appeared to be opposites (Beauty and the Beast comes to mind as a comparison), they had terrific chemistry that transcended the difference in physical appearances.
They started their set with a spirited cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up, Little Susie.” Though their voices couldn’t have been more different — Colvin’s was smooth and supple and Earle’s was rough and raspy — the two found a way to make their voices mesh.
Early in the set, they played the new album’s single, “Come What May,” a tune that sounded like a traditional folk song, and they then delivered a rendition of “Ruby Tuesday” that found them trading off acoustic guitar solos mid-song. Prior to playing “These Four Walls,” Colvin talked about how she regularly writes “sad break-up songs” and said the tune was originally intended to be that before she watched a documentary about Martin Luther King Jr. and then rewrote the tune.
Earle introduced his tune “Someday” by recounting how he got a publishing deal when he was 19 but then struggled to get a record deal. Then, after he finally got a deal, he “damn near literally fell off the face of the earth.” One thing that sustained him, however, was hearing Colvin’s cover of “Someday.” His story provided a nice introduction to the tune, which the duo then performed together.
Colvin took center stage for her tune “Sunny Came Home,” a song that Earle jokingly referred to as “a murder ballad,” and Earle switched to mandolin for a rendition of his rousing “Galway Girl.” The two harmonized nicely on “Tell Moses,” a song that Colvin referred to as “our spiritual.”
The duo returned for a three-song encore that included Colvin’s “Diamond in the Rough,” a tune that concluded with a guitar jam, and Earle’s alt-country anthem “Copperhead Road,” the one song in the acoustic set that actually could have used some drums and bass.
Performing in front of crowd that politely listened to their stories and applauded their performances, Earle and Colvin endeared themselves to the audience by performing as if they were playing to a close set of friends in their living room.