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Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR's All Songs Considered features your favorite musicians performing at Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music office. This is the AUDIO only archive.Are you a fancy A/V nerd and need video? Visit our new Tiny Desk Concert video channel. Eye-popping video and all of the music you've come to expect.

Steve Earle: Tiny Desk Concert

Steve Earle has lived through the sort of horrors that have launched a million country songs: addiction, affliction, heartbreak, even prison. He wears them in his voice, but for all his authentic world-weariness, what's most appealing about him is the wide-eyed, unmistakable fearlessness with which he goes about his life these days.

When you've kicked the demons Earle has, it's no big deal to write a novel, act on a TV show or sing a heart-on-the-sleeve love song — or play your brand-new tunes for the first time in the NPR offices, in front of dozens of onlookers. "I think that's the first time I've ever sung that song for anybody," Earle says at one point, by way of explaining the minor lyrical glitches that pop up in his performance of "Waitin' on the Sky."

That song opens his terrific new album, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive — so named for Hank Williams' final song, which also inspired Earle's novel of the same name — and it includes killer lines like, "Didn't know I was gonna live this long / Now I'm sittin' on top of the world." War and death, love and natural disasters are rendered with the gravity they deserve in these songs, and in this Tiny Desk Concert, they're dispensed alongside some wonderfully dry, witty banter. ("We used to make records for girls," he says. "Now, we make 'em for nerds.")

An actor on David Simon's last two TV series, The Wire and Treme, Earle closes this set with "This City," a song he wrote for the latter.

Set List

  • "Waitin' On The Sky"
  • "Every Part Of Me"
  • "This City"
  • Credits

    Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Adele Hampton

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)