Throughout his career, Steve Earle has sung the praises of Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, “naming him the patron saint of barrooms and benders,” said Stephen Deusner in Pitchfork media.com. He once threatened to stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table to proclaim Townes the world’s greatest songwriter. He even named his firstborn Justin Townes. So Townes—a loving collection of handpicked covers—was an inevitable tribute to his late mentor, but “it didn’t have to be so dull.” Earle has stripped down the arrangements to put Van Zandt’s songs front and center, said Randy Lewis in the Los Angeles Times. While Earle’s gruff, hard-bitten delivery is perfect for “his own tales of moral outrage and social empathy,” it too often leaves Van Zandt’s work sounding “unintentionally dour.” For instance, “Pancho and Lefty,” the fateful tale made famous by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, sounds even sadder here. Earle gives the songs the “carefully considered settings they deserve,” said Greg Kot in Entertainment Weekly. Even if they don’t always succeed, it’s fascinating to hear Van Zandt’s “foremost disciple” pay his respects.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Here comes the Pentagon's newest space plane
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- Extreme haunted houses: Inside Halloween's most terrifying new trend
- Everything you need to know about the voter ID controversy
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
Subscribe to the Week