My dear friend Steve Earle’s new record Townes was released today. It is a gorgeous recording of Townes Van Zandt‘s songs done by Steve. It is also a meditation on their friendship and the mortality of both men, and it is also very much a Steve Earle record.
There have been other “tribute” records, but they pale in comparison. They were certainly worthwhile efforts, but at best, they were watery approximations of who Townes was and what he did. Steve’s record is the raw ether of the real thing and it resonates like no other. I heard this record in its first incarnation in November and it was like an icicle had touched my spine. It was almost impossible for me to discern where Townes ends and Steve begins. It is a melding of kindred spirits as deep and murky and radiant as the ocean.
I started thinking about Townes after i heard the record again the other day; how naturally he fits in to this narrative of hobos and scarecrows. I didn’t know him at all, but hearing Steve’s accounts of funny stories and anecdotes and hearing those lovely, plaintive and searching American songs, a picture emerges; one sad and lonely and more beautiful for being both things in an odd way.
For me, Townes is one of those scarecrow figures in American music. . .one of those fence posts or mile markers. He set the bar way high and few have ever matched it. This record is by one of those who did. Buy this CD. If you don’t like, it I’ll reimburse you and give it to someone with some taste.
There is a great picture of Townes and Steve in the CD package and Townes is tall, lanky and gaunt as a scarecrow. He looks like a cowboy; a gray angel of American songwriting.
This one is for him.