SXSW 2019: Steve Earle Tips His Hat to 'Teacher' Guy Clark at New West Showcase

Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW.
Steve Earle of Steve Earle & The Dukes performs onstage at New West Records during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Mowhawk on March 15, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

Steve Earle gave Guy Clark his due one more time on Friday night (March 15), closing his initial blast of dates launching the upcoming Guy tribute album with a heartfelt South By Southwest performance at the Mohawk.

Earle and his Dukes started the run March 8 in Denver but have, appropriately, been playing mostly in Clark and Earle’s home state of Texas, including a couple of record store appearances and a set at the Luck Reunion on Thursday (March 14) on Willie Nelson’s ranch outside Austin. 

On Friday, meanwhile, Earle and his Dukes served as nominal headliner of New West Records’ two-stage showcase, playing fives songs from the tribute album -- set for a March 29 release -- along with a couple of favorites from Earle’s own canon.

Earle spoke fondly about Clark, who he called his “teacher,” telling the crowd that his own youth spent vacationing in Texas’ hill country meant he knew “exactly what Guy was writing about” in “Rita Ballou.” He introduced “Desperados Waiting For a Train” with a long story about arranging for some barbeque to be brought to Clark not long before he passed away in 2016.

“When I was walking out the door… I asked him, ‘Guy, how was the barbeque,’ and he said…’Pork,’” Earle recalled. “The last thing my teacher said to me was ‘pork.’ And I’m OK with that.”

The beginning of the evening was equally personal for Earle as he checked out son Justin Townes Earle’s performance in the Mohawk’s small inside room. The younger Earle previewed material from his upcoming album The Saint of Lost Causes (May 24) but also delivered a particularly poignant “Mama’s Eyes,” with its opening line “I am my father’s son.”

Friday’s show also included Clark-related tracks such as “Dublin Blues,” “Texas 1947” and “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” before Earle and company wrapped with his hits “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road.”

Earle and the Dukes next play April 27 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and have sporadic dates announced, so far, throughout the summer.

Festivals 2019