Review of Steve Earle & the Dukes

By Michael Campbell

He feels alright, if his double encore performance at the Brewery's Thunderdome is any indication. Opening with the title track of his E-Squared/Warner Brothers release I Feel Alright, Earle's smoke-shredded rasp mapped his travels through hell. Steve has reunited with a revised version of his eclectic, electric backup band, the Dukes, who rocked the full house with a vengeance.

Known best for his hard-ass musical and lyrical style, Earle's quieter, acoustic based material offered a reminder of the power of the ballad, specifically with "My Old Friend The Blues" and "Valentine's Day."

After the solo acoustic spot, Earle and the Dukes rocked even harder, sweeping the audience through the Earle anthems "Someday," "I Ain't Ever Satisfied," and "Copperhead Road." As usual, Steve included a couple of interesting covers: the Stones' "Take It or Leave It" from their 1967 compilation Flowers, and the Dylan classic, "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, A Train to Cry."

From the outside it was the old Steve Earle: black T shirt with rolled up sleeves, aviator shades, and the defiant stance. From within emanated a new found, perhaps fragile maturity, combining the wit of Prine, the weary wisdom of Van Zandt with the production values of early Springsteen. He feels alright, and we were lucky to be there.

The Viceroys (renamed the VRoys), of Knoxville, opened the show with their brand of thumping hillbilly grunge, featuring a dual guitar interplay reminiscent of Crazy Horse or the early Stones. The band has an album due out later this year that will feature performances of "Sooner or Later" (not the Dylan song) and "Goodnight You Losers," flavored with good energy and a dash of cynicism.