The committed troubadour, Steve Earle, took fifteen cuts from his hero, Townes Van Zandt. Simply entitled, Townes, the album is a collection of songs most meaningful to Earle of the trendy singer-songwriter. Earle met Van Zandt while performing in Houston, Texas as a young and ravenous songwriter in 1972. The two bumped with chitchats back and forth from the viewers to the stage where Earle was performing until Earle had the last words singing, “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”, an intricate and complex song from the Van Zandt catalog. The two quickly became close friends. Earle even named his son, Justin Townes Earle, after Van Zandt. Earle once said of Van Zandt,
“Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”
Townes is Steve Earle’s thirteenth studio album. It opens with “Pancho and Lefty”, a Townes song that has been covered by Emmylou Harris and more excellently by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Earle’s version is a supernatural evocative story of outlaws on the run, friendship, and disloyalty. There is “Lungs”, which shows a dark tone of discontent, and “Loretta”, a happy inspiration of love, with support vocals from Earle’s wife, Alison Moorer.
The best part of the album is a duet, “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”, with Earle’s son, Justin. Here, you can hear two generations of The Earle family. The father-and-son duo is simply amazing.
The Single, “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”
It is not one of the most intimate records of Earle’s career. However, Townes is not simply a replication of Van Zandt songs. It was more of the rebirth of songs from a beginner to a mentor. Earle’s voice is firmly rough whiskey and smoke filled in contrast to Van Zandt’s old-fashioned and subtle voice. Like “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”, most of the album songs were lifetime favorites that Earle has played for years. Others were learned just for the recording.
Overall, the album may not be Earle’s best craft, but it is his improved work. He provided an earnest tribute to a man and his music that has been unacknowledged for years.
This is a sure thing for any Steve Earle or Townes Van Zandt fan. You will not be disappointed. Visit us at Country Thang Daily and enjoy more tribute songs.