Steve Earle has always held the late Townes Van Zandt in the highest of regards so it seems only fitting that the roots-rocker would dedicate himself to making a record of 15 Van Zandt’s songs to commemorate the memory of his mentor. Earle fans will find him mining familiar territory on Townes, each of the songs rest comfortably in the country-roots-bluegrass vein although he does take minor detours through some of these tracks.
Lungs is an example of the detours not working so well; the original song itself is fantastic (as is Lyle Lovett’s version) however the record scratching and giving Earle’s vocals the “transistor radio” treatment here doesn’t do the song any benefit. Indeed, the bulk of these songs work best when Earle stands back and just plays. To Live Is To Fly and Poncho and Lefty are standout simplistic acoustic tracks while the bluegrass treatment given to White Freight Liner Blues is divine. Townes is a strong record for Earle. Even though the songs don’t belong to him, they help pay homage to one of the 20th century’s best songwriters. And that’s good enough for me.