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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. 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.

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:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Lots of love but little to add
    These are faithful renditions of some of the most amazing songs ever written. I'm not sure that Earle makes any of these songs his own, though. When Willie Nelson does Pancho & Lefty, it's something different and wonderful, but in general I think I would just as soon listen to the originals than Earle's versions.
    A few exceptions though. Because Townes had wrecked his voice by the time he did Marie, Earle's version is more musical - and better than Willie's talky cover. Similar situation with Rake. With Lungs, Earle does change the arrangement quite a bit, but in a way that reminds me of what I like least about Earle's recent material....more info
  • Where is the Magic?
    This is a very fine album and hopefully will expose more people to TVZ. Steve Earle's love for the music shines through and he is true to Townes vision. But, the best albums of this sort gives us a greater appreciation for the material being recorded - "Judy Sings Dylan" or Springsteen's "Seeger Sessions and sadly this misses that mark....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
  • When the Student Becomes the Teacher: B+
    Disclaimer: I am a HUGE fan of Earle and TVZ. I have to admit I was a little skeptical of an entire tribute album to Townes; it's almost become an Americana prerequisite to cover a TVZ song in the name of "not forgetting," which Townes would freakin hate. But if anyone SHOULD be anointed to record a tribute album to Townes, it feels right to be Earle. If you have seen the 1975 film, "Heartworn Highways," which has a Christmas scene of Guy Clark, TVZ and Earle when he was about 20, drop-dead gorgeous, a guitar and songwriting prodigy, you can understand that the mentoring went both ways.

    All of the "bad" songs on this album are the ones that add "too much" to the songs; the beauty of Townes' writing is its focus on guitar melody and spare vocals, the poetry, the stories. Overproduction and over-instrumentation kill a few of the songs, with the exception of "Loretta," which rocks, and Earle's bluegrass interpretations of songs, which allow instruments to pick up the richness of melodies without interfering with the vocals.

    Earle doesn't do a very good job with Townes' story songs. The cd definitely gets better as it goes along. Best tracks: "Colorado Girl," "Loretta," "Brand New Companion," "Rake," "Delta Momma Blues," "Don't Take it Too Bad," "Quicksilver Dreams," and "To Live Is To Fly."

    1. Pancho and Lefty: the best thing about Earle's version is that it is down-tempo, the same tempo Townes played it when he was strung out before he died in 97 but picked a little stronger and simpler by Earle. Earle's vocals are expressive but interfere with the sparseness of the story; the song is so over-covered that this version doesn't add much to Earle's repertoire or translate the flat, dusty vocal that made the original believable.

    2. White Freightliner Blues. This is an uptempo, bluegrass version, another over-covered song, not too much new here that blew me away, the vocals are a little muddled.

    3. Colorado Girl. One of the better songs on the cd. Great picking, great vocals. Best cover I've ever heard of this song--it fits Earle like a glove.

    4. Where I Lead Me. One of the most rearranged and overproduced songs on the album--I generally don't like Earle's use of drum mixers--it overpowers the vocals and guitar. Doesn't hold a candle to Eric Taylor's version.

    5. Lungs. Another rearranged and overproduced song--the intro guitar lead is great but like Where I Lead Me, the drums are droning and make the song boring except for the guitar solos.

    6. No Place to Fall. Some nice instrumentation here, but it's too busy--the lyrics of this sweet love song don't shine through at all.

    7. Loretta. This is one of my favorite Townes' songs, and this cover rocks! It has a driving quarter-note drum/bass like Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk," with Allison Moorer and Justin doing background vocals. John Prine does a great cover of this song, but this song is one of the best on the cd.

    8. Brand New Companion. Very bluesy version. Awesome. You gotta remember that Allison Moorer is his brand new companion, so he had to knock this out of the park.

    9. Rake. Earle's picking and vocals at their finest. Townes=channeled. This should have been the first song on the cd.

    10. Delta Momma Blues. Upbeat bluegrass interpretation with plunky banjo, mandola and mandolin, great cover.

    11. Marie. Willie Nelson's cover of this song is pretty hard to beat. The guitar picking is great, but the vocals are slurred, hard to follow, and the story gets lost in a heavy bass/snare beat. Great song, baaad cover, imo.

    12. Don't Take it Too Bad. Another bluegrass interpretation--fantastic.

    13. (Quicksilver Dreams of) Maria. Beautiful cover--great picking and singing.

    14. To Live Is To Fly. "Think of all the poetry and the picking down the line." Allison Moorer comes in on harmony vocal, Steve's picking and phrasing are perfect, great cover and way to end the tribute--tearjerker....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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Not a bad interpretation, but try these on for size...
    This is a very nice recording by Steve, something that needs to be done to celebrate the genius of Townes Van Zandt (TVZ). To the reviewer who complained of Steve's garbled lyrics, well, you obviously haven't been listening to him for a number of years.

    As good as this is, I personally feel Guy Clark and Lyle Lovett have done a better job of covering and interpreting TVZ's songs. They are scattered on a number of recordings by Guy Clark, and the Lyle Lovett release 'Step Inside this House', disc 2, celebrates not only TVZ, but another great singer/songwriter, Walter Hyatt. If you like Steve and TVZ, you'll like both Guy Clark and Lyle's 'Step Inside this House', which was one of the best releases in 1998. Enjoy, L'wood....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
  • 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