Like Neil Young, Steve Earle has always played his rock and roll yin against his country yang.
He blends rock and country consistently, but generally with one or the other prevailing — and he's pretty much ready for the country on his current album, "So You Wannabe an Outlaw."
The "Wannabe" of the title is a joke, of course. Earle, who headlines Shakori Hills' Friday program, has more literal outlaw bonafides than Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard put together.
So it's no surprise that "Outlaw" deftly conjures up the sound and vibe of 1970s-vintage progressive country, with nods to Waylon, Willie and the Boys — Willie Nelson, as a cameo guest on the title track, with the spirit of the late great Waylon Jennings very much present. It's Earle's strongest album in many a year.
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Earle is the big draw of this year's Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance lineup, alongside polyglot L.A. rock band Chicano Batman, New Orleans-based sister act Rising Appalachia, the Triangle's own Boom Unit Brass Band, Shakori festival co-founders Donna the Buffalo and more.
The festival kicks off May 3 and runs through May 6 in Silk Hope, near Pittsboro in the rural part of Chatham County.
Earle is set to perform Friday night on the Meadow Stage at 10 p.m.
Single-day tickets range from $22-$37 in advance, with gate prices in the $30-$45 range. Four-day passes start at $114 for adults, and camping options are available.
For details, see shakorihillsgrassroots.org.