Man, where has this Steve Earle been for the last 10, 15 years or so? He’s releasing his new album So You Wannabe an Outlaw? on June 16th (streaming on NPR) that’s unabashedly inspired by Waylon Jennings and the other original country music Outlaws, and will also feature appearances by Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, and original “Whiskey River” writer, Johnny Bush, and apparently the 62-year-old is feeling salty as he reignites his Outlaw spirit.
In what starts off to be a rather innocuous local interview with a reporter in in Canada after a show in Toronto, Steve Earle begins by highly praising Canada’s own Colter Wall. Then when reporter Brad Wheeler question’s Colter’s legitimacy, sparks fly, and poor Richard Buckner gets pulled into the melee.
“You’ve got a great Canadian fan base,” reporter Brad Wheeler asks. “Do you keep an eye on the music coming out of here?”
“The best singer-songwriter I’ve come across in years is a Canadian. His name is Colter Wall,” Steve Earle explains. “He’s from Saskatchewan, and he’s incredible. His songs are stunning. He’s been listening to the right stuff, and he gets it.”
“I haven’t heard his new album yet, but I heard him described as ‘bad Richard Buckner,'” the reporter replies.
This is when things got real.
“Richard Buckner sucks,” Steve Earle responds unabashedly. “Richard Buckner is the most overrated songwriter in the history of songwriting ever. Girls liked him, because he stared at his feet. He’s a neanderthal. I know Buckner. He can’t write his way out of a wet paper bag. Richard Buckner was nothing but a painfully alternative hipster’s darling.”
So there’s that.
Steve Earle also accurately points out in the interview that being a country music Outlaw was never just about dressing in leather and doing drugs, but about wrestling for creative freedom of your music.
“I see disturbing things when people try to define what outlaw music is. Outlaw music is a term like rockabilly that I don’t think was actually used at the time. Somebody in retrospect came up with that term. It wasn’t about the drugs we were taking and the trouble we were getting into back then. It was about artistic freedom.”
Anyway, it’s pretty unusual to see an artist these days laud someone as glowingly as Steve Earle did Colter Wall, or take someone to the woodshed like he did Richard Buckner, and appeared to be something a greater spotlight needed to be shined on. And good on the reporter Brad Wheeler for having the guts to post it. Meanwhile Richard Buckner is in some coffee shop in Brooklyn wondering what the hell he did to piss off Steve Earle.
The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree when it comes to the Earle clan. Earlier this year, Steve son Justin Townes Earle twisted off on Bro-Country, saying, “I cannot stand that fucking shit. That is the most bullshit idea of country music you could ever come up with. I mean that is just the worst kind of shit imaginable. If you think that shit is country you can kiss my genuine Tennessee ass.”
May the Outlaws rise again.