Steve Earle’s The Low Highway paints a grim picture of contemporary America.

The country-folk artist writes and sings about the jobless, the homeless, the addicts and the "bones of broken factories" in the new album, released last week.

"This is about what I saw out the window more than it is about me," Earle told CBC’s Q cultural affairs show.

Steve Earle is touring with his backing band The Dukes (And Duchesses), comprising Chris Masterson, Eleanor Whitmore, Kelley Looney, Will Rigby and Allison Moorer. They'll be in Canada this summer, with stops in:

  • May 1: Belleville, Ont.
  • July 21: Kelowna, B.C.
  • July 26: Gateway Festival, Bengough, Sask.
  • July 27: Calgary Folk Festival.
  • July 28: Interstellar Rodeo, Edmonton.

"This job that I do was invented by Bob Dylan and he created himself in Woody Guthrie’s image, so all of us who have done it since have emulated Bob, who was emulating Woody singing songs that were stylistically rooted in the '30s in the Great Depression."

In the eyes of a singer who tours its rust belts and inner cities, parts of America today are not unlike the America of the Depression era. "Times are really that hard out there," Earle said.

The Low Highway follows Earle's Grammy-nominated 2011 album I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive.

The Texas-raised troubadour first made his mark with 1986’s Guitar Town and joined a wave of outlaw country bands that emerged in the late 1980s. He developed a major fan base in Canada with Copperhead Road.

However, hard living soon left Earle unable to write. Incarceration for drug and weapon charges followed in 1994. Addiction has been a continuing struggle of his life since his release and he writes about it in the song Pocketful of Rain.

Earle also heavily involved in 2012's Occupy movement and has thought long and hard about U.S. President Barack Obama’s political legacy, he tells Q.

Earle’s next project is a memoir scheduled for release in 2014. Now the father of an autistic two-year-old, he freely admits he wrote the memoir to raise money for his son's schooling.