Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Steve Earle's magnificent "Townes" (2009)


Steve Earle - Townes (2009)

"This may be one of the best records I've ever made. That hurts a singer-songwriter's feelings. Then again, it's some consolation that I cherry picked through the career of one of the best songwriters that ever lived."

We've been listening to this almost non stop for the past week or so. An amazing album, full of classic Townes Van Zandt songs, wonderfully reinterpreted by his good friend Steve Earle.

In our book, the late great Townes Van Zandt is up there in the canon of modern songwriters in a triumvirate with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

An artist shamefully neglected during his problem-addled short 52 years. I was fortunate enough to catch Townes play live once in a small venue at a Folk Festival in Ireland. Although, Townes was much the worse for wear that night (he made even Shane Mc Gowan look sober in comparison!) it's a gig that will always live in the memory.

Steve manages to find a new way to bring out the magic of these songs without damaging their inherent nature.

The production is magnificent too. Full of subtlety and restraint. Steve also comfortably nails the complex instrumentation often at play across this album.

The greatest compliment we can give this great collection is that it's up there with Dylan's meisterwerk "Together Trough Life."

One of the albums of the year for 2009? No Doubt!!

ImageOn May 12, New West released Townes, Earle's tribute to his friend and mentor - and one of the giants of modern songwriting - the late great Townes Van Zandt.

The album is available as a single CD or alternatively a deluxe two-CD set. You can also grab it on 180-gram vinyl.

According to a press release, Steve and Van Zandt first met when Townes heckled an Earle show in 1972, the sort of thing that must be a total nightmare for most singer-songwriters.

The two stayed best of friends until Van Zandt's sad early death in 1997.

Dust Brother John King, who produced Earle's 2007 album Washington Square Serenade, mans the boards on one song, "Lungs". On that same song, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, rather bizarrely but effectively, guests on guitar.

Singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, Earle's wife, sings backup on "To Live Is to Fly" and "Loretta".

Earle also recruited a backing band of bluegrass all-stars to play on several songs.

And duetting on "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold" is Earle's son Justin Townes Earle (appearing on record with his dad for the first time.)

Man, Earle really must've really loved TVZ if he named his kid after him! And this love and respect, both for Townes and his sublime songs , is evident throughout this marvellous collection.


1 Pancho and Lefty
2 White Freightliner Blues
3 Colorado Girl
4 Where I Lead Me
5 Lungs
6 No Place to Fall
7 Loretta
8 Brand New Companion
9 Rake
10 Delta Momma Blues
11 Marie
12 Don’t Take It Too Bad
13 Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold
14 (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria
15 To Live Is to Fly

The 2CD Limited Edition


Disc 1

01 Pancho and Lefty 4:01
02 White Freightliner Blues 3:27
03 Colorado Girl 3:35
04 Where I Lead Me 3:29
05 Lungs 2:18 2:18
06 No Place To Fall 2:52
07 Loretta 3:14
08 Brand New Companion 5:12
09 Rake 3:22
10 Delta Momma Blues 5:14
11 Marie 4:52
12 Don t Take It Too Bad 3:12
13 Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold 2:17
14 (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria 3:20
15 To Live Is To Fly 3:40

Disc 2

01 Pancho and Lefty (Solo) 4:01
02 Where I Lead Me (Solo) 3:37
03 Lungs (Solo) 2:22
04 No Place To Fall (Solo) 2:56
05 Loretta (Solo) 3:14
06 Brand New Companion (Solo) 5:11
07 Rake (Solo) 3:21
08 Marie (Solo) 4:49
09 Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold (Solo) 2:33
10 (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria (Solo) 3:15
11 To Live Is To Fly (Solo) 3:36

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