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Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.
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Sunday, November 24, 2002
Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart Live in Concert
November 23, 2002
Elk’s Club, Cadillac, Michigan
Although singer and songwriter Stacey Earle denied it when I talked to her briefly last night, there can be no doubt that being the brother of Steve Earle is a mixed blessing for her. On one hand her association with Steve brought her some of her first recording and touring opportunities and has resulted in many people –including this writer- checking out her music when we otherwise would not have. But on the other hand having to be constantly compared to someone like Earle who’s music and life story are both as large as life can be is not an easy task.
While Stacey Earle might never completely get out of her brother’s shadow, it would be a mistake to ignore both her life story and her music. After marrying in the late 1970s at the age of 17 and doing the domestic mothering gig exclusively for a while, Earle moved to Nashville with the kids in 1990, got a divorce and became a performer and songwriter. Soon after she met and married fellow singer-songwriter Mark Stuart. A record contract was hard to come by until she hooked with brother Steve’s E Squared label to release Simple Gearle in 1998 and Dancin' With Them That Brung Me in 2000. Both were excellent showcases for her songs about life, love and motherhood as well as her unique laid back vocals. The music is probably best described as folk but country and pop influences are undeniable. Her most recent release, Must Be Live features lives recordings by Earle and Stuart and came out last year on Gearle Records, a label that the two founded.
The married duo with one guitar each took the stage last just minutes after the 8:00 p.m. start time that Gopherwood Concerts had advertised before a crowd of 60-70 people in the Elk’s Club, which dates back to the 1920s and is in the third floor of a building in downtown Cadillac, Michigan. (Buildings don’t get much higher than three floors in Cadillac, FWIW.) Save for a 20-minute intermission, the two performed non-stop till 10:15 with songs coming both Earle’s and Stuart’s songbooks as well as collaborations from the two. The music was light and folky and most certainly crowd pleasing. Most of all Earle stood out for the unreconstructed giddiness that she brought to the stage, giddiness that would force most adults to shake their heads if exhibited in a teenager. If her mannerisms and stage comparisons can be compared to any other performer it would have to be Emmylou Harris at about 14 years old. But that really doesn’t give an accurate description because mixed with this stage presence were songs like “Makes Me Happy” and “Weekend Runaways” that are thoroughly about growth and experience. Perhaps the ultimate message is that growing as a person and experiencing pull’s on one’s time don’t have to be drudgery but can in fact lead to joy.
I don’t know much about Stuart’s music and unfortunately nothing I heard from him yesterday was impressive. The songs of his that the two performed could charitably be described as genre exercises as there didn’t seem to be much point to them. He did say an appropriate line for the night, however. “I don’t know why we bother retuning our guitars. Really, I mean who wants to sound like everybody else,” Stuart said before the duo has even played one song.
Nobody should ever accuse the combined efforts of Earle and Stuart as sounding like those of anybody else.