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June 10, 2002

Steve Earle visits Emory for reading, book signing

By Stephanie Sonnenfeld

Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Steve Earle is coming to Emory this week—not to showcase his musical talents, but to highlight his first published book of short stories.

Earle will be at Emory on June 11 for a reading and booksigning of Doghouse Roses, which is making its paperback debut. The event is sponsored by Emory Bookstores and will be in 207 White Hall at 6 p.m.

Earle, whose music is a meshing of rock and country, has recorded 10 albums that have garnered him eight Grammy nominations, including one for the Best Contemporary Folk Album (2000’s Transcendental Blues). Last year marked the initial release of Doghouse Roses, which was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews from The New York Times Book Review, Kirkus Reviews and from novelists such as Jay McInerney and Michael Ondaatje.

The 11 stories in Doghouse Roses are made from the same ingredients that have defined Earle’s music: political philosophies, drug addiction and the semantics of interpersonal relationships.

Writing a book looks to be a natural extension of Earle’s songwriting talents. During his early days in Nashville, Earle worked for RCA writing songs for artists including Carl Perkins and Johnny Lee. He showcased his own singing and songwriting abilities with his 1986 solo release, Guitar Town. Other recordings, like Copperhead Road, Train a Comin’ and Transcendental Blues, have continued to earn Earle rave reviews and accolades across musical genres.

Some critics have called Earle the “heir apparent to Hank Williams,” which fits in more ways than one. Like Williams, Earle’s musical talents are stunning, and also like Williams, Earle has fought his share of addictions. In the early 1990s, Earle was convicted for possession of narcotics and served a short stint in jail. Unlike Williams, Earle kicked his drug habits and came back to impress the music industry with more than just his musical talents.

Although Doghouse Roses was published last year, its true genesis is in the early 1990s when Earle began writing what has become “Wheeler County,” a story in his new book, he told The Boston Herald in an interview.

“I started it thinking it would be a good novel. But my life was falling apart at that time. I pawned the computer it was in and never backed it up,” Earle said. “When I got out of rehab, I reconstructed it from memory and found it was a short story.”

“Wheeler County,” which tells the tale of a hitchhiker stranded in a small Texas town, joins 10 other stories that—like one of Earle’s albums-—revolve around varied themes and sorts of people. In “Doghouse Roses,” a musician and his wife embark on a drug-fueled road trip in search of romance, while “The Reunion” details an unlikely bond between an American Vietnam War veteran and a Vietnamese colonel.

Earle has become a vocal opponent of the death penalty, a theme that has been incorporated into songs and now in prose with “The Witness.” The story is about a husband witnessing the execution of his wife’s killer, and in a somber and gothic manner shows how death and justice don’t always go hand-in-hand. Like any thorough writer,

Earle writes about what he has seen, and his firsthand witness of the execution of a Texas convict is vividly recalled in the precise details of “The Witness.”

The stories in Doghouse Roses are not Earle’s only non-songwriting efforts; he has written most of a three-act play about executed Texas inmate Karla Faye Tucker, in addition to 366 haikus and the beginnings of a novel.

With his talents now spanning across artforms, Earle’s music fans can rest assured he is not abandoning music. This spring, Earle released Sidetracks, a collection of unreleased outakes from albums past. He’s also produced albums for other artists, contributed songs to various movie soundtracks, written songs with artists such as Sheryl Crow, and he runs his own record label, E-Squared.

For more information about Earle’s upcoming visit to Emory, call Druid Hills Bookstore at 404-727-2665 or e-mail