Yeah…about that new Steve Earle album
Honestly, at this point, I probably shouldn’t write about Steve Earle. I’ve written about him a fair bit, spent a little more time around him than might reasonably lead to any sort of dispassionate reckoning of his music, and I think of his wife as a friend, albeit a friend I don’t know all that well, though I’ve written a fair bit about her and, back in Nashville, was a tiny bit in her orbit. Which is to say I knew which night her old crowd might be at Sherlock Holmes.
Caveats aside, and despite the fact that I know it doesn’t come out until May 12, I’ve gotta tell y’all how good Steve’s album Townes really is. Because it’s really, really, unexpectedly good.
Nobody makes this kind of record anymore, records like the Louvins saluting the Delmores, or Merle Haggard saluting Bob Wills. And even when they do (Jeffrey Foucault has a new one out, all songs by John Prine, for example), the results tend more to be about how much we all love these old songs than what can still be done with those old songs.
And there’s the prejudice among those of us who prefer that singers to perform songs they’ve written to assume that an entire album of interpretation from one of our best songwriters is a kind of…easy way out, say.
Yeah, that’s not what this is. First, Steve is way too close to Townes to have put this out unless he thought it measured up. Second, Mr. Earle has done a stunning job finding new ways into these songs, teasing out meaning layered upon each other. The settings vary, the approaches vary, his care with the words never varies (and Steve can mumble and grunt with the best of ’em)…and, I dunno…I gotta go back to work, but this record…it’s real good.