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Best of Providence 2009

Steve Earle | Townes

New West (2009)
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  May 6, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

In case it wasn't clear already, Steve Earle idolizes Townes Van Zandt, the Texas singer-songwriter who died in 1997 after decades of soul-shaking music and life-obliterating demons. Earle has covered some of Van Zandt's songs before; he even named his kid (himself now a singer-songwriter) Justin Townes Earle.

So this 15-track tribute has "What took you so long" written all over it, but at the same time it feels like the record Steve Earle needed to make right now, his finely focused yang to the yin of 2007's ambitious, New York–centric Washington Square Serenade. At that, he recorded most of the basic acoustic tracks in his Greenwich Village apartment before heading to Nashville for augmentation.

"Colorado Girl" and "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold" remain unadorned: voice, guitar, and a story. Most of the others are only slightly less spartan: unobtrusive bass and drums ("Poncho and Lefty"); wife Allison Moorer singing background ("Loretta," "To Live Is To Fly"); bluegrass quartet (on the three additional tracks cut on Music Row). "Lungs" is another story: spooky no-frills blues unexpectedly intersected by Tom Morello's harrowing electric guitar.

Throughout, Townes does what a tribute album should do: Earle evokes the essence of the honoree without giving up a smidgen of his own individuality.
  Topics: CD Reviews , Allison Moorer, CD reviews, Entertainment,  More more >
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