P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2004
April 6, 2004
Steve Earle, Odetta, and Carl Hancock Rux Kick Off Summer Season at MASS MoCA
(North Adams, Mass.) MASS MoCA will celebrate its fifth anniversary and the opening of its summer season with a special concert featuring Steve Earle, Odetta, and Carl Hancock Rux on Sunday, May 30, at 7:30 P.M. The concert and fifth anniversary celebration are sponsored by The Porches Inn. Experimenting with musical sources from roots rock to alternative country to bluegrass, Steve Earle is a fearless --and fearsome-- social activist, known for such politically charged hits as Jerusalem and Christmas in Washington. Performing solo he delivers his message with clarity and power. With a distinguished 50-year career, blues, folk, and gospel singer Odetta is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Poet, novelist, secular preacher and hip hop provocateur Carl Hancock Rux kicks off the evening. MASS MoCA's galleries will be open until 6 P.M. and concert ticket buyers are eligible for a special reduced admission of $6
Raised in Schertz, Texas, son of an air traffic controller, Steve Earle dropped out of 8th grade to go on the road sleeping on ratty couches with his Texas troubadour heroes like Townes Van Zandt, whom Earle called "a good teacher and bad role model". Earle went on to Nashville, where, in 1986, he made his first album, Guitar Town, which is still considered a landmark-- a latter day Grapes of Wrath for the pick-up truck set. Taking note of the album some critics began to see Earle as "the savior of country music", "the thinking man's antidote to a thousand guys in ersatz cowboy hats", "the hillbilly Bruce Springsteen", and "the next Hank Williams". More records followed, including another landmark work, Copperhead Road.
Hard traveling gave way to hard addictions as Earle became a junkie. He pawned all his guitars and disappeared from the music world for four years, four months of which were spent in jail. Emerging from his jail time drug free, Earle has gone on to make six new records in six years, touring 150 nights a year. His concerts have become legendary for his energetic sets which can sometimes stretch for hours at a time. In 2002 he opened the Broadaxe Theatre in Nashville with his original play Karla about Karla Faye Tucker the first woman executed in Texas since 1863. Earle has acted in three episodes of HBO's The Wire. He is well known for his public advocacy against the death penalty.
Steve Earle's latest album, Jerusalem, is his most political yet. "This is a political record because there seems no other proper response to the place we're at now," Earle says of the album. "In a big way this is the most pro-American record I've ever made. In fact, I feel URGENTLY American. I understand why none of those congressmen voted against The Patriot Act, out of respect for the Trade Center victims' families. I've sat in the death house with victims' families, seen them suffer. But this is an incredibly dangerous piece of legislation. Freedoms, American freedoms, things voted into law as American freedoms, everything that came out of the 1960's, are disappearing, and as any patriot can see, that has to be opposed." For example the cut John Walker's Blues deals with John Walker Lindh, the erstwhile Marin County teenager and admitted Taliban fighter. The song opens with the lines, "just an American boy, raised on MTV…I seen all the boys in the soda pop bands and none of them looked like me" and finishes with a recitation of Sura 47, Verse 19 of the Qur'an.
A folksinger distinguished by the power and clarity of her voice as well as the richness and intensity of her delivery, Odetta is one of the pillars of twentieth-century music. She has had a significant influence on modern music, providing inspiration for such performers as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Tracy Chapman, and Joan Armatrading. The New York Times described one performance saying, "She strung together blues and spirituals, many of them unfamiliar. Over the steady rhythm of her guitar and her tapping foot, she sent her voice to its clear heights and its nasal depths, bringing out the field holler roots of her music."
Born Odetta Holmes in Alabama, her father died when she was young. Her mother remarried, moving the family to Los Angeles when she was six. Odetta took piano and voice lessons before she entered secondary school, where she began to discover her immense vocal talent. She was the star of her high school choir and began singing at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood at age 14. Odetta embraced the modern folk music scene while studying music at Los Angeles City College. In 1949 she began performing in West Coast clubs as a solo act, accompanying herself on guitar. Around this time she purchased a now-famous guitar, "Baby," she used all of her arrangements and to develop a unique sound that was eventually canonized in the folk music world as "the Odetta strum." She was unquestionably one of the brightest stars of the folk music renaissance of the early 1960s, which also saw the first of many world tours for her. Odetta received acclaim for her appearance on a television special with Harry Belafonte and stole the show from an impressive roster of singers in the 1963 program Dinner With the President.
Poet/performer Carl Hancock Rux uses his smooth sensuous baritone voice to deliver thought-provoking verse. Rux has been selected by The New York Times as "one of 30 artists under the age of 30 most likely to influence culture over the next 30 years". He has been featured on the cover of The Village Voice as "One of Eight Writers on the Verge of Impacting the Literary Landscape" and is frequently compared to Jim Morrison and Gil Scott Heron.
Rolling Stone says his debut album, Rux Revue, "digs into deep issues like lust, love, death, poverty, and artistic integrity – but it also explores the inescapable connection between music and poetry, going places few artists have gone before." According to The San Francisco Guardian, "His intonation, his impeccable sense of rhythm, his prodigious grasp of language are astounding."
Doors open at 6:30pm for food and drink before the show. The 5th anniversary season and The Interventionists exhibition are sponsored by The Porches Inn.
Tickets to the opening concert are $22 in advance or $26 the day of the show. MASS MoCA members get 10% off. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located on Marshall Street in North Adams from 11 am – 5 pm, closed Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or online anytime at www.massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall St. in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release