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Steve Earle - Townes
alternative country, folk, rock
May 12, 2009
Notes / Reviews

Townes is a 2009 Steve Earle album on which he pays tribute to his friend and mentor, the late singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt by covering his songs.http According to a New West Records press release, "The songs selected for Townes were the ones that meant the most to Earle and the ones he personally connected to (not including selections featured on previous Earle albums). Some of the selections chosen were songs that Earle has played his entire career ('Pancho & Lefty', 'Lungs', 'White Freightliner Blues') and others he had to learn specifically for recording.Blackstock, Peter, ,, March 9, 2009

Notable guest appearances on the album are to include Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave/Street Sweeper Social Club) playing electric guitar on "Lungs", and Earle's wife Allison Moorer singing backing vocals on "Loretta" and "To Live is to Fly". Earle and his son, Justin Townes Earle trade verses on "Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold".

This album won Best Contemporary Folk Album at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

Chart performance


Category:2009 albums

Category:Steve Earle albums

Category:Tribute albums

Category:New West Records albums

This text has been derived from Townes (album) on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0

Artist/Band Information

Stephen Fain "Steve" Earle (; born January 17, 1955) is an American singer-songwriter known for his rock and country music as well as his political views. He is also a published writer, a political activist, and an actor, and has written and directed a play.

Personal life

Earle was born on January 17, 1955, at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. He is the eldest son of Jack Earle, an air traffic controller, and Barbara Earle. Although he was born in Virginia where his father was stationed in the military, the family returned to Texas before Earle's second birthday. They moved often during his childhood, primarily within Texas, but he spent several of his formative years in Schertz, Texas. He dropped out of school in the 9th grade to move to Houston and learn more about the music business. Earle released his first album, Guitar Town, in 1986. His sister, Stacey Earle, is also a musician, having toured with Steve in the 1990s and sung on the song "When I Fall" on Steve's 2000 album Transcendental Blues.

Earle has been married seven times, including twice to the same woman. His wives were Sandra "Sandy" Henderson, Cynthia Dunn, Carol-Ann Hunter (with whom he had his first child, Justin), Lou-Anne Gill (with whom he had a second son, Ian), Maria Teresa Ensenat, Lou-Anne Gill a second time, and finally, in 2005, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer. His first son, Justin Townes Earle, is also a musician, and is named for Townes Van Zandt. Earle and Moorer had their first child together, John Henry Earle, on April 5, 2010.


Musical career

In 1975, Earle moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he met Guy Clark and his wife Susanna. He appears in the 1975 film Heartworn Highways, which documents the songwriting scene in Nashville around Clark, including fellow Texas musicians Townes van Zandt and Rodney Crowell. Earle had already met Van Zandt in Texas, and refers to Clark and Van Zandt as his mentors and teachers. Clark was instrumental in Earle being hired as a songwriter by the Sunbury Dunbar publishing division of RCA. There he wrote songs for the likes of Carl Perkins, Johnny Lee, Vince Gill and Steve Wariner. His song "Mustang Wine" was due to be recorded by Elvis Presley in 1975, but Presley did not turn up for the recording session. The song was released as a single by Carl Perkins. He also wrote the Patty Loveless hit "A Little Bit in Love." Earle did backing vocals on "Desperados Waiting for a Train" (together with Emmylou Harris) on Clark's first album Old No. 1 and toured in Clark's band. In 1981 Earle achieved a top-ten cut with "When You Fall in Love," which was recorded by Johnny Lee. In 1985 one of his compositions "A Far Cry from You" was recorded by Connie Smith, who made the song a minor hit that year.

Earle's early work as a recorded performer was in the rockabilly style, and can be heard on the Early Tracks album. Early Tracks was recorded for Epic Records, but the company dropped Earle, only releasing the album in 1987 after he found success with MCA Nashville. Earle had to wait until 1986 before his first album, Guitar Town, was released by MCA. It was a critical success and was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The follow-up albums Exit 0 in 1987 and the certified-gold Copperhead Road, 1988, built on this success. With Copperhead Road, Earle moved to MCA Los Angeles and drew increasingly on rock influences.

Earle had been a substance abuser since an early age and was addicted to heroin for many years. By the time of his 1990 album The Hard Way, it started to become clear that the drugs were seriously affecting him. By 1992, his drug problems resulted in him effectively stopping performing and recording for two years, a period he refers to as his "vacation in the ghetto." He eventually ended up in jail on drug and firearms charges. Kicking the drug habit while in jail, Earle came out a new man and released two albums within 18 months of his release in late 1994. His comeback album, the Train A Comin' , was nominated for the Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy Award in 1996. Train A Comin was a return to the country blues-influenced folk of Earle's early career and drew on his older catalogue of unrecorded material.

Earle's post-jail musical career has been more diverse than his early work. He set up his own record label with producer and engineer Ray Kennedy, allowing him increasing artistic control. This has led to experimentation with a range of styles from country and bluegrass music to folk and hard rock music. He has maintained a strict work ethic. Several albums have been released since. Earle also tours often, playing over 200 shows per year. His concerts tend to be either solo acoustic shows or ensemble affairs with one of his two backing bands, the Dukes or the Bluegrass Dukes.

Steve Earle & Allison Moorer at Bumbershoot 2007.jpgthumb220pxrightSteve Earle and Allison Moorer at Bumbershoot, 2007

Earle is the subject of the documentary film Just an American Boy, directed by Amos Poe, which explores his political views as well as his music. The film was shot while Earle was touring in support of his 2002 release Jerusalem. In 2005, he caused consternation among his fans by allowing the song The Revolution Starts Now to be used by General Motors in a TV advertisement for pick-up trucks. In 2006, Earle contributed a cover of Randy Newman's song "Rednecks" to the tribute album Sail Away: The Songs of Randy Newman.http Earle is also the subject of two biographies, Steve Earle: Fearless Heart, Outlaw Poet, by the noted New York-based music writer David McGee and Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle by Lauren St. John.

In September 2007, Earle released his twelfth studio album, Washington Square Serenade, on New West Records. Earle recorded the album after relocating to New York City, and it was his first attempt at using digital audio workstation ProTools, as opposed to traditional analog recording techniques. The disc features wife Allison Moorer on "Days Aren't Long Enough". The album includes Earle's version of Tom Waits' song "Way Down in the Hole" which is featured as the theme song for the fifth season of The Wire in which Earle himself appears as Walon. In 2008, Earle produced Joan Baez's album Day After Tomorrow. (Prior to their collaboration on Day After Tomorrow, Baez had covered two Earle songs, "Christmas in Washington" and "Jerusalem," on previous albums.) In the winter, he toured Europe and North America in support of Washington Square Serenade, performing half the set solo and the other half with a DJ. On May 12, 2009, Earle released a tribute album, Townes, on New West Records. The album contains 15 songs written by his late friend and musical mentor Townes Van Zandt. Guest artists appearing on the album include Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Earle's wife Allison Moorer, and his son Justin Townes Earle. Both Washington Square Serenade and Townes also earned Grammy awards in the contemporary folk category.

Earle plans to release his first novel and fourteenth studio album, both entitled I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive after a Hank Williams song, in the spring of 2011. The album is set to be released on April 26, 2011 and was produced by T-Bone Burnett. Earle describes it as dealing with questions of mortality and having a "more country" sound than his recent work. He plans a full band tour in support of the album in the summer of 2011. Billboard, January 24, 2011 http

Since his emergence as a performer, his songs have been covered by various well-known artists, including Joan Baez, The Pretenders, The Proclaimers, Eddi Reader, The Highwaymen, Waylon Jennings, Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris, Percy Sledge and Johnny Cash. Travis Tritt had a #7 country hit in 1995 with Earle's "Sometimes She Forgets."

Writing career

In addition to music, Earle has written a collection of short stories called Doghouse Roses, several of which draw on his personal experiences as a musician and addict. The book was published by Hough Mifflin Harcourt in June 2001. Earle has also written poetry and wrote and produced a play about the death penalty entitled Karla. The play was produced off-Broadway and focuses on the death of Karla Faye Tucker, who was the first woman excuted by the state of Texas since the death penalty was reinstated.

Earle's first novel, entitled I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive after a Hank Williams song, will be published in May 2011. The novel is set in San Antonio in 1963, and tells the story of a defrocked doctor and morphine addict. The doctor makes a living by performing illegal abortions and is haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams, whom he may have been traveling with when Williams died of an overdose. Billboard, January 24, 2011 http The novel is being published by Hough Mifflin Harcourt, with a tentative publication date of May 12, 2011.Press Release, Hough Mifflin Harcourt, http

Acting career

Earle portrayed a recovered drug addict named Walon in several episodes of the HBO television series The Wire, created by David Simon. He appears first in season one where he addresses a 12-step-type meeting with an account of how he lost everything to addiction: "I pawned my bike, my pickup truck, a National Steel guitar, a stamp collection that my grandpa left me; lost a good wife, a bad girlfriend, and the respect of anyone who ever lent me money." His story affects Bubbles and appears to spur him towards recovery. After season one, Walon does not return until Bubbles hits rock-bottom hard in the season four finale. Picking up the thread, he then appears throughout season five as sponsor, as Bubbles attempts to overcome his heroin addiction and its consequences. Earle's song "I Feel Alright" is used in a montage to close out season two. He also performs the opening theme of the fifth season, performing "Way Down in the Hole," a song written by Tom Waits.

Earle also played a supporting role as a drug dealer in Tim Blake Nelson's 2009 movie Leaves of Grass, starring Edward Norton. He currently plays a street musician in the HBO series Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Earle's song "This City" can be heard over the closing credits of the first season finale. He was also one of several musicians who sang a mock charity appeal in the final episode of Season 3 of 30 Rock.

Radio shows

Earle's radio show on Air America began in August 2004 and last aired on June 10, 2007, and that was a rebroadcast of a past episode., retrieved 2008-10-03 Shortly thereafter, he started DJing on a show on Sirius Satellite Radio called Hardcore Troubadour on their Outlaw Country channel.

Political views

Since early in his career, Earle has been involved in a number of political causes. In his first public performances, Earle was unable to play in bars due to his age and took to playing in coffeehouses alongside anti-Vietnam War campaigners. These experiences had a strong effect on him, prompting his opposition to the Iraq War.

Earle's mother took part in anti-death penalty vigils, a cause that has been taken up by Earle. He has worked to abolish the death penalty and has recorded several songs about this cause, including "Billy Austin," "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)" and "Ellis Unit One" for the 1995 film Dead Man Walking. Ellis Unit, located in Huntsville, Texas, previously housed the Texas male death row convicts, until it was moved to Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas. He is also a regular participant in the "Concerts for a Landmine Free World," benefiting the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. In 2010 Earle was awarded the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's Shining Star of Abolition award., retrieved 2010-01-27

In the early 2000s Earle's music was more explicitly political. His 2002 album, Jerusalem, was largely inspired by the US-led War on Terrorism. This album featured "John Walker's Blues," which was about the captured American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh. Many accused Earle of sympathizing with terrorists as the song was written from Lindh's perspective. Earle responded that he was simply empathizing with Lindh and attempting to understand his motivation through song rather than glorifying or forgiving terrorism. He said that, as a parent, he was moved by pictures of Lindh bound to a stretcher. "For some reason when I saw him on TV, I related it to my son. That skinny and that age, exactly. I thought, he's got parents somewhere, and they must be sick.McGee, David. Steve Earle, Fearless Heart, Outlaw Poet. Backbeat: San Francisco, 2005. P. 207."

His 2004 album, The Revolution Starts Now, which features several songs relating to the Iraq War, was deliberately released to coincide with the run-up to the 2004 US presidential election, with the aim of encouraging votes for John Kerry.See liner notes to the album The song "The Revolution Starts Now" was used in the promotion of Michael Moore's anti-war documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 and appears on the album Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11, the songs for which were selected by Moore. The song also opened Earle's weekly Sunday-night show on Air America Radio. He appears in the 2008 political documentary Slacker Uprising.


Use in media

Steve Earle's songs have appeared in many major motion pictures and television as writer and performer.

As performer and writer

* The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) ("Honey Don't")

* Dead Man Walking (1995) ("Ellis Unit One")

* The Horse Whisperer (1998) ("Me and the Eagle")

* Pay It Forward (2000) ("Open Your Window")

* You Can Count on Me (2000) ("I'm Still In Love With You", "Harlan Man", "Texas Eagle", "The Mountain", "Pilgrim")

* The Pledge (2001) ("The Other Side of Town")

* Last Party 2000 (also known as The Party's Over (2001) ("Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)")

* Big Bad Love (2001) ("Goodbye")

* The Rookie (2002) ("Some Dreams")

* Stevie (2002) ("I Ain't Ever Satisfied")

* Silver City (2004) ("Amerika v. 6.0")

* Brokeback Mountain (2005) ("Devil's Right Hand")

* Talladega Nights (2006) ("Valentine's Day", "Hard-Core Troubadour", "I Feel Alright")

* The Guardian (2006) ("Home To Houston")

* Bridge to Terabithia (2007) ("Someday")

* Leaves of Grass (2009) ("Lonely Are the Free")

As writer

* Sgt. Bilko (1996) ("Sometimes She Forgets")

* G.I. Jane (1997) ("Goodbye")

* P.S. I Love You (2007) ("The Galway Girl")


* Steve Earle has received a total of fourteen nominations for Grammy Awards.

* He was named Country Artist of the Year for 1986 by Rolling Stone magazine.

* In 2004, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting by the UK's BBC Radio 2.

* In February 2005, he received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for The Revolution Starts Now.

* In February 2008, he received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album (Vocal or Instrumental) for Washington Square Serenade.

* In January 2010, he received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album for Townes.

* In July 2010, Earle was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Music and Lyrics category, for the song "This City," which was written for the television series Tremé.


* Recorded and performed "Johnny Come Lately" with The Pogues.

* Performed a duet with Iris DeMent on "I'm Still In Love With You".

* Co-wrote the Jason & the Scorchers song "A Bible & A Gun".

* Sang on Jason Ringenberg's re-recording of "A Bible & A Gun" in 2002.

* Worked with the Supersuckers, recording their song "Creepy Jackalope Eye" and his song "NYC" (1996)

* With the Rolling Stones, "Before They Make Me Run"

* Sang backup vocals and played the harmonica on the Indigo Girls song "Shame on You", on their 1997 album Shaming of the Sun.

* Recorded "The Galway Girl" and "Dominick Street" with Sharon Shannon and The Woodchoppers.

* Recorded covers of Alejandro Escovedo's "Paradise" and Warren Zevon's "Reconsider Me" with Reckless Kelly, for Escovedo and Zevon tribute albums.

* Collaborated with the Del McCoury Band on 1999's The Mountain.

* Performed a duet with Lucinda Williams on "You're Still Standin' There".

* Performed a duet with Chris Hillman on "High Fashion Queen" for the Gram Parsons tribute album Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons.

* Performed a duet with Siobhan Maher Kennedy on "Poison Lovers".

* Performed a duet with Emmylou Harris on "Comin' Around", "Goodbye", and "I Remember You".

* Performed a duet with Stacey Earle on "When I Fall".

* Played guitar and sang backup on Emmylou Harris's version of "Goodbye" (from her Wrecking Ball album.)

* Co-wrote "Go Amanda" with Sheryl Crow (on Jerusalem).

* Sang with Sheryl Crow on his cover of "Time Has Come Today" on Sidetracks.

* Covers the Son Volt classic "Windfall"

* Played banjo on Patti Smith's cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

* Produces and collaborates on Joan Baez's album Day After Tomorrow.

* Performed a duet with Jill Sobule on her song "Love is Never Equal"

* Covered NRBQs "A Girl Like That" on the NRBQ tribute album The Q People

* Performed with Allison Moorer on the song "After The Fire Is Gone" from Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute To Loretta Lynn (2010).


*McGee, David. Steve Earle: Fearless Heart, Outlaw Poet, Backbeat, 2005.

*Schone, Mark. (1998). "Steve Earle." In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 160–1.

*St John, Lauren. Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle, Fourth Estate, 2002 ISBN 1-84115-611-6


This text has been derived from Steve Earle on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0

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