Townes (LP)
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Product Description

Steve Earle is set to release Townes, his highly anticipated follow up to the Grammy Award winning album Washington Square Serenade, on May 12th via New West Records. The 15-song set is comprised of songs written by Earle s friend and mentor, the late singer-songwriter, Townes Van Zandt. Townes will also be available as a deluxe two-CD set, as well as double Limited Edition 180 gram vinyl.

The album was produced by Earle at his home in Greenwich Village, at Sound Emporium and Room and Board in Nashville, TN and The Nest in Hollywood, CA. The track Lungs, was produced and mixed by the Dust Brothers John King and features Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine/The Nightwatchman on electric guitar. Earle s wife, the acclaimed singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, is featured on backing vocals on Loretta and To Live Is To Fly. Three songs cut in Nashville, White Freightliner Blues, Delta Momma Blues, and Don t Take It Too Bad feature a bluegrass band consisting of Dennis Crouch, Tim O Brien, Darrel Scott and Shad Cobb.

Earle met Townes Van Zandt in 1972 at one of Earle s performances at The Old Quarter in Houston, TX. Van Zandt was in the audience and playfully heckled Earle throughout the performance to play the song Wabash Cannonball Earle admitted that he didn t know how to play the tune and Van Zandt replied incredibly You call yourself a folksinger and you don t know Wabash Cannonball? Earle then silenced him by playing the Van Zandt song Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold, not an easy feat due to its quickly-paced mouthful of lyrics squeezed into just over two minutes of song. Their bond was immediately formed. On Townes, Earle and his son, singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle (named after Van Zandt) trade verses on the tune, a song the two of them have been playing together since Justin was a teenager.

The songs selected for Townes were the ones that meant the most to Earle and the ones he personally connected to (not including selections featured on previous Earle albums). Some of the selections chosen were songs that Earle has played his entire career ( Pancho and Lefty, Lungs, White Freightliner Blues ) and others he had to learn specifically for recording. He learned the song (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria directly from Van Zandt, and taught himself Marie and Rake specifically for the album s recording. Once a song he played during his live show, Earle relearned Colorado Girl in the original Open D tuning that Van Zandt played it in. Earle recorded the New York sessions solo and then added the other instruments later on in order to preserve the spirit of Van Zandt s original solo performances to the best of his recollection.

Vinyl LP pressing. 2009 release, the highly anticipated follow up to the Grammy Award winning album Washington Square Serenade. The 15-song set is comprised of songs written by Earle's friend and mentor, the late singer-songwriter, Townes Van Zandt. The songs selected for Townes were the ones that meant the most to Earle and the ones he personally connected to. Some of the selections chosen were songs that Earle has played his entire career ('Pancho and Lefty', 'Lungs', 'White Freightliner Blues'). He learned the song '(Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria' directly from Van Zandt. Earle recorded the New York sessions solo and then added the instruments later on in order to preserve the spirit of Van Zandt's original solo performances to the best of his recollection. The track 'Lungs' was produced and mixed by the Dust Brothers' John King and features Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine/The Nightwatchmen on electric guitar.

Customer Reviews:

  • Whats not to love?
    I have no problems with people giving this album 4 or even 3 stars because it is what it is and doesnt ever blow your mind or give you chills. But it is authentic as hell and there isnt a bad track or misstep on the entire record. And the songs themselves are all sooo beautiful.

    I hope Mr. Earle converts a few of the uninitiated into TVZ acolytes, he's one of the greatest songwriters this country has produced.

    Every time another great artist dies before his/her time its always sad because we don't know what kinds of projects we'll never hear. Like maybe they took your never written favorite song with them. I feel like this record is a minor gift from someone who could have died too soon in memory of someone who did....more info
  • Amazing tribute
    The album is good - Earle's interpretations bring new depth to some of Townes' classic songs. Like Earle's last album, Washington Square Serenade, this was produced and mixed by Dust Brother John King. That means the drum loops are back, at least on songs like "Lungs". If you were put off by the sound of the last album, you may be relieved to hear that the production touch is much lighter on Townes - King and Earle know when to step back and let the songs come through on their own.

    The real gem of the Deluxe Edition, though, is the second disk, "Basics" - Earle recording the tracks with a solo guitar. These tracks give you a chance to see the development of the song, sort of a step between the Townes originals and the final album versions. That said, the solo cuts completely stand on their own - the solo version of "Lungs" alone makes it worth the price, and solo versions of songs like "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold", "Pancho and Lefty", and "Rake" bring a special intimacy....more info
  • master remembers mentor...
    Steve Earle is one of our finest songwriters. He has at least three stone cold masterpieces under his belt (I Feel Alright, El Corazon and Transcendental Blues). "Townes" is a heartfelt tribute/cover of Earle's mentor/hero Townes Van Zandt. I'm too young to understand the Townes Van Zandt legacy. This goldmine collection of earnest Americana will ensure I go back and find the TVZ originals. Highlights include the well known country standard "Pancho and Lefty", the transcendent ode to wanderlust: "White Freightliner Blues", the slow blue burn of "Brand New Companion" and finally the simple but painfully beautiful "To Live is to Fly". The past miles of tried and tired experiences come thru sad and clear as Steve's haunted voice and weeping guitar pay tribute to a fallen angel. ...more info
  • On the way back up from WSS.
    I don't think it's a mind-blowing album but I do think it's good. It's definitely better than I expected.

    I disagree that it's a "vanity project" and, for the most part, I don't think it's overproduced. I'm actually relieved that Earle didn't try harder to slavishly imitate his idol. Earle has a long track record of experimenting (successfully, I think) with Celtic, bluegrass, punk, and other musical influences and I'm glad he didn't abandon this just to sound more like Townes. There are enough people out there trying to be the next Townes; we don't need it from somebody like Earle who can clearly stand on his own.

    I don't necessarily think he picked the best of Townes' songs to record, but that's more a matter of personal taste....more info
  • Prote'ge' sings the Master's songs
    This Deluxe addition CD is a "must have" of any Steve Earle or Townes Van Zandt fan. Steve was born to do this labor of love for Townes and 'both' their fans. I can't remember when I've enjoyed Townes' music more or Steve's music more other than when each is singing his own. This is Steve Earle's masterpiece. CD 'Townes', by Steve Earle. Americana, singer-songwriter. Just plain good....more info
  • Master songwriter covering some of the greatest songs ever written, and mostly succeeding...
    I've been waiting with bated breath and trembling knees for this record to drop, and though I am still wrapping my head around some of the material, I'd have to say it is a success. I am a huge Steve Earle fan, and as a songwriter myself, he is a big influence (especially his earlier stuff and his post-prison bluegrass material) but the idea of covering a whole album's worth of material by the late, greater than great Townes Van Zandt is a daunting prospect for anyone. Townes' material ranks not only among some of the greatest American songwriting of all time (and that's not just inside of the country and folk genres, but in the whole American musical canon) but his lyrics are profound pieces of literature on their own merit, and Steve Earle is one of few musicians qualified enough to take on such a task; Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker probably being the only other two, and we've all heard Shotgun Willie cover a few of his buddy Townes' tunes, but none of those guys had quite the connection with Townes as Steve Earle did. Although Steve Earle will NEVER be as great a lyricist as Townes, he has written some damn fine songs and this album should breathe new life into both his own recording career (haven't been impressed with most of his post-1996 output) and bring Townes' legacy to a larger audience...hopefully.
    In the pole position is "Pancho and Lefty," a song so oft-covered one might wonder why Steve Earle decided to include it. It works mostly, but is far from the highlight of the record. Steve Earle's raspy, survivor's voice makes "White Freighliner Blues" all the more poignant, and it comes across as just that--a survivor's tale, or a warning of sorts, which is probably how Townes envisioned it. The bluegrass approach used on "White Freightliner" and a couple of other tunes works really well for both parties--Steve Earle sounds incredible as a bluegrasser, and the bluegrass influence in Townes' own sound is an element that isn't discussed as much these days.
    I haven't been impressed with the electronic direction of some of Steve's recent music, but that approach works on "Lungs," oddly enough. Purists might wonder "WTF?", but Townes' songs are so good that they can be interpreted with any sort of arrangement and still sound classic, and Tom Morello's snarling electric guitar brings out a dimension in the song that makes sense. Steve's old-timey style of pickin' that was last really showcased on "Train a' Comin'" is brought out on quite a few tracks here, namely his rendition of the harrowing "Marie," which I now like just as much as Willie Nelson's incredible cover from a few years back.
    There are several great performances on here. The bluesy, roadhouse sound of "Where I Lead Me" is ear-catching, as is the new take Steve does on "Loretta," one of Townes' more overlooked, lighthearted tunes. The bottom line on this one is, if you love Townes or Steve Earle, there's at least a couple of things on this album you'll really love.
    In a day and age where so-called "songwriters" are too busy catering to the lowest common denominator and filling pop-country albums with lunkheaded lyrics and elementary melodies pertaining to the same old subjects, this album is a breath of fresh air, and as I wrote earlier, will hopefully bring some much-overdue attention to the greatest songwriter who ever lived vis-a-vis his protege. Hopefully, if this album is a big success, it'll entice buyers to check out the catalog of the master, himself (I recommend "Live at the Old Quarter," "Our Mother the Mountain," "The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt" and "At My Window").
    Townes Van Zandt was truly a poet, and if you're not touched in some way by any of these songs, you're truly a body without a soul, and should go back to your Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts records....more info
  • Steve does Townes with finese
    I became familiar with Townes Van Zandt's music and song writing because he was the song writer revered by popular musicians. I was curious about this guy Townes who was more appreciated and recognized in Europe and Japan then he was in the states. So I checked out his stuff, and liked it.
    Steve Earle says in his liner notes for the deluxe version of this CD, that his truck broke down in Townes driveway and he lived with him for months, until his royalty checks came through. Steve obviously enjoyed the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere around one of his heroes. But as Steve describes, Townes was a talented but haunted man.
    There are two discs on the deluxe version. One is entitled "The Basics". of the two discs, this is my favorite. Steve is so skilled with playing the music, and the production is outstanding. Where Townes was a great song writer, he was not recognized as a great singer. Steve does a wonderful job of performing the songs, giving credit to his mentor, yet bringing the songs to a greater audience with his talent. The other disc is more fleshed out with additional musicians and production. Don't get me wrong, I like it, but "The Basics" is striking in its simplicity yet beautiful tones. The highlight of the CD which has expanded production is the duet of Steve and his son, Justin Townes Earle, performing "Mr Mudd and Mr Gold" which is about a fictional card game. How they remember the lyrics and fire them off so quickly without messing them up is beyond me. Thanks Steve, I'm going to go back to the source and check out some of your mentor's other works. Townes music will continue to live on with another generation....more info
  • Steve has the soul
    I'm just reading the others reviews and it seems Steve has missed the point. The point is TVZ and his deepest soul. This CD is not another usual TVZ tribute but it's a work of love and soul. Just hear how Steve sings: pure beauty. He has soul and blues and heart here. Take it or leave it. I love you Steve, thanks for anything. Go straight on your dusty road. ps: the second CD is a GREAT addiction. ...more info
  • Not nearly as good as I expected
    I am a huge Townes VZ fan, and have seen Steve Earle in concert two times and really enjoyed him both times. About 10 years ago, I probably would have said Steve Earle was my favorite musician, but since El Corazen I think he has steadily declined. Basically it comes down to this: I would much prefer to hear the originals when I want to hear TVZ, and I would much prefer to throw on I Feel Alright when I feel like hearing Steve Earle. His take on these great songs is to draaaaaaag them along slowly, nasally, without adding anything to the original recordings. Most people buying this seem to know exactly what they are getting, but if Earle or VZ are new to you, I'd suggest:
    Earle: I Feel Alright, Train A'Comin, Transcendental Blues, and the Mountain.
    TVZ: High Low and In Between, Our Mother the Mountain, S/T, Rearview Mirror...more info
  • Steve Does Karaoke
    After knocking out a string of truly great American albums Mr. Earle resorted to Karaoke of himself on his last CD and now true Karaoke on this one. Maybe another divorce or another Bush in office would get his creative juices flowing....more info