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67 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 12, 2009
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Townes + The Low Highway [CD/DVD Deluxe] + I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
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Editorial Reviews

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.

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

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 12, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: New West Records
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,303 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Lara Chetkovich on May 14, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Chris Edwards on June 1, 2009
Format: Audio CD
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luca Mazzocchi on May 31, 2009
Format: Audio CD
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By bluesfan55 on May 19, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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.
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Topic From this Discussion
What Extras Does 2CD Deluxe Offer????????????
CD Two is all the songs done "acoustic". Might be cool.
May 2, 2009 by bk |  See all 17 posts
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