by Brian Baker
Hiatt and Earle (plus his Dukes) perform together at the Taft Theatre tonight
There isn't a huge stylistic gap between Steve Earle and John Hiatt, so it makes sense that they would make a good tour package (one that hits the Taft Theatre tonight for an 8 p.m. show). They're both moderately successful Americana artists with slavishly loyal fan bases and solid bodies of work over long careers (Hiatt having the earlier ’70s start). To the curious mind, the billing begs the point: What else do Earle and Hiatt have in common?• They both began their careers as staff songwriters and launched performing careers after one of their songs became a hit for someone else (Johnny Lee for Earle, Three Dog Night for Hiatt).• They've both been covered extensively by other artists, Earle by Travis Tritt, Robert Earl Keen and others, and Hiatt by Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and many more.• They both signed with Epic Records for their first deal; Earle never recorded for them, while Hiatt did two Epic albums which sold poorly and expedited his release.• Their second contracts were both with MCA; Earle had a pretty decent run with the label, including his 1988 hit Copperhead Road, while Hiatt's was a repeat of his Epic experience.• They've both been nominated for Grammys, but Earle has a commanding lead with 14 nods and three wins, while Hiatt has been nominated twice with no mantle bling to show for it yet.• They've both been married multiple times, but again Earle has the lead with seven marriages; Hiatt has only had three.• Both have successfully dealt with substance issues.• Both are balding; Hiatt has the lead here with more hair, but Earle compensates with a ZZ Toppish beard.• Both will kick your ass in the live setting, so bring an extra ass.Here's a clip for Hiatt's "Damn This Down," off his latest LP, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. And here is part of a documentary filmed during Earle's sessions for I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (also the name of his novel and, yes, both are based on the Hank Williams tune, which he covers on the album as a bonus track. The novel is centered around Williams mysterious "doctor" who traveled with the singer until his death, then disappeared).