Whether singing the praises of being a "Regular Guy" and "Good Ol' Boy" or from the points of view of garage mechanics and Death Row inmates, Steve Earle asserts his Populism almost as regularly as Hank Williams Jr. asserts his lineage. That he managed to still seem like the down-to-earth, authentic item amid all this protesting-too-much Sunday at the Roxy was a triumph of feeling over imagination.
What pure country touches there were in the show came with material left over from his first two albums; Earle's two latest LPs, to which most of the 2 1/2-hour concert was devoted, have been firmly based in rock.
The cynical view would have it that Earle got tired of being called "a country Springsteen" and decided to become a Springsteen Springsteen. The rosier view is that this Southerner really is the rebel he had seem, having spurned Nashville and forgone a lucrative career in country in order to connect with the more fickle rock crowd.
Earle is every bit as credible a rocker as he was a country boy, if not more so, but most of his hard-core barn-burners aren't quite as distinguished as those older, beautiful ballads like "Fearless Heart" and "Someday," which still stood out as quiet highlights in a mostly feverish concert.