Only four more sleep left until I get to go home and by proxy that also means only two more runs to accomplish between now and then. The initial plan since it’s already nearing twilight was to hit the treadmill just as I did last Tuesday, except instead of doing a progression run I’d do some hill work instead. Except that by the time I got down there the sole treadmill was already occupied up by a 300lb. mean looking dude in jeans and work boots, sporting a huge ass Sonic Burger milk shake and watching the football game. Needless to say, he wasn’t going anywhere soon and I wasn’t about to interrupt him. So I did something I’ve never done here in San Antonio…I ran from the hotel. I figured how bad could a 25 minute run be? As long as I get back before nightfall I should be fine, right?
Fingers crossed anyway.
To keep me company, I opted for the second in my list of these Texas-inspired albums on this trip by Steve Earle, ‘Train a Comin‘.
‘Train a Comin’ is the 5th studio album by Earle (his first in five years), released in 1995. In addition to Earle, it features Peter Rowan, Norman Blake, Roy Huskey, and Emmylou Harris. The album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
To say that ‘ol Stevie had career problems in 1994 when he he recorded this album would something more than an understatement. Earle’s life went into a dramatic tailspin thanks to a voracious drug habit after he parted ways with MCA in 1991, and he ended up spending a few months in jail on drug and weapons charges in 1993. Earle thankfully got treatment for his addictions while behind bars, and was clean and sober for the first time in many years when he scored a deal with a tiny independent label, Winter Harvest Records, and cut this largely acoustic album.
Considering how low Earle had sunk, it was a pleasant shock that ‘Train a Comin‘ was not only good, it was one of the strongest albums of his career to date. Dominated by songs he’s written years before along with a few new tunes and some well-chosen covers, the album featured Earle with a small group of gifted acoustic pickers, including Norman Blake, Peter Rowan, and Roy Huskey, Jr., and the tone of these sessions is at once relaxed and committed, sounding like a back porch guitar pull with a seriously talented guy handling the lead vocals and calling out the tunes. Earle’s experiences with the judicial system hadn’t exactly improved his voice, but he’s in far more potent form than he had been on 1991’s live set ‘Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator‘, and his control and command of his instrument is genuinely impressive. Earle’s natural cockiness works in his favor on these tunes, especially ‘Tom Ames’ Prayer‘ (a personal favorite of mine), ‘Hometown Blues‘, and ‘Angel Is the Devil‘, and his gift for telling a story is plainly evident on ‘Ben McCulloch‘ and a moving cover of Townes Van Zandt‘s ‘Tecumseh Valley‘.
‘Train a Comin‘ is not an album that asks the audience to forgive Steve Earle for his sins; it’s a document of an artist who after a season in hell has reclaimed his gift and is determined to put it to use, and after years of fighting Nashville to do things his own way, Earle resumed his career by following his own muse with eloquent simplicity, and this album shows his instincts were entirely correct.
As far as th3 run went it was…well, let’s just say I got back in one piece safe and sound which – here in Texas – is about as good as one can expect. Well, in this area anyway. And that’s okay by me seeing as how an album of new and revisited folk songs wasn’t likely going to provide the best motivate for a series of difficult hill repeats anyway.
I started out in front on the hotel and left down Spencer Lane and after a pretty decent pace for the first kilometer, I cut across the parking lot of El Pollo Loco and right smack dab onto Fredericksburg Rd…or “Fast Food Alley” as I call it. Excellent. For the next 2-3 kilometers or so – minus a brief but pleasant jaunt through the “Old Spanish Walking Trails and Aqueduct” park – I ran past just about every fast food joint you think to name. Another left on Vance Jackson Rd – up a long, stupid incline no less – and I was more or less back at the hotel.
The real challenge in running here in this area of San Antonio is that there really isn’t any sidewalk per se. What semblance there is of a sidewalk, be it a narrow gravel path or broken up concrete trail by the side of the road, might quickly evaporate altogether into total nothingness and before you know it you’re running in the middle of traffic which makes it hard to really establish any decent momentum…unless you’re dodging out of the way of an oncoming bus.
Having said all this, I’m just pleased that I managed to get something – short as it may have been (4.5k) – in order to validate my next priority this evening, Sam’s Burger Joint (click HERE for other related posts) and one of these bad boys:
Oh, and then two small scoops of Hazel’s Pumpkin Pie and Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey ice cream from Licks Ice Creams: