Townes

Townes

I stood in line and left my name / Took about six hours or so / Well, the man just grinned like it was all a game / Said they’d let me know.” These lines, from the new Steve Earle album, have just the sort of populist, humanistic slant that has won the singer acclaim over the years. Yet they aren’t his. “Marie” is one of fifteen Townes Van Zandt compositions featured on Townes (New West), and if it seems odd for Earle to follow his Grammy-winning Washington Square Serenade with an album of covers by the Texas great, he is blunt about why: He’s finishing a novel and has no time to write songs. Earle’s no stranger to Van Zandt; as an idolizing youth he abandoned his Schertz home and made a beeline for Houston in search of the songwriter, who became his reluctant mentor. And Earle hasn’t exactly tossed this project off. Recorded in multiple styles, he chooses material both obvious and obscure that showcases all aspects of Van Zandt’s evocative writing—grim, hopeful, funny, lustful—and pours his heart into these remarkable songs. If not enough to make you abandon everything yourself, their language will at least seduce you.

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