It's not surprising that Steve Earle is channeling Woody Guthrie these days.

Of course, Earle has modeled a large part of his career on Guthrie and mentor Townes Van Zandt. Yet the past year -- during which Earle performed at a number of events commemorating Guthrie's 100th birthday -- put him more in touch with the legendary folk artist Guthrie than perhaps at any other time.

"The songs kind of started out about what the hard times are doing to the people of New Orleans," said Earle of the work on his most recent album, "The Low Highway." "Then when I was on tour, I realized I was seeing things that none of us have ever seen in our lifetime. Times are that hard. I was seeing what Woody saw."

Earle has spent his adult life reaching out to those who endure hard times both through his music and social activism. Although he has most recently been involved with the Occupy Movement and raising awareness about the hard times after Hurricane Sandy, his concerns stretch from land mines to capital punishment. And he continues to be concerned about the lack of progress in rebuilding New Orleans.

Steve Earle & the Dukes
» Where: The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
» When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
» Info: $59.50; 202-397-SEAT;

In a way, Earle relates in a very personal way to those caught up in such struggles. His multiple marriages, homelessness and addictions are public knowledge and he never shies away from discussing them.

In fact, his experiences working through those times and coming back to become one of the most revered singer songwriters in modern music is what fuels him to continually create new music and tour.

"Hard times have settled in and we're going to have them for a long, long time," he said. "It's tough out there. God knows, though, people really have to think twice about what they spend their money on these days. I really appreciate everybody that turns out."

And Earle said that aside from his other artist pursuits, which include two books that he has in the works and shooting a movie, he never sees himself as anything but a songwriter.

"I am a songwriter. Acting and writing strengthens that craft," he said. "I'm a better songwriter than anything and I always will be."