I don’t think I ever had any doubt that Steve Earle could pull off a Townes Van Zandt cover project. He’s got too much invested in the project to fail artistically; the vagaries of the market for tribute CD’s will determine if it’s successful commercially. The four reasons he couldn’t fail are that he named his son after Townes, Townes was a great friend and early mentor, Steve’s gone though some of the same problems that killed Townes, and finally Steve has a way with interpreting other people’s material. By and large when Steve Earle records fail it’s due to overt political themes in the songs but not in his style, his musical choices, or his vocals. So with this project the songs were guaranteed to be killer and all other variables mentioned above are all accounted for.
The one flaw I can find is that of omission. I would have loved to hear Steve’s take on “Snowing on Raton” but still songs like “Pancho and Lefty”, “White Freight Liner Blues” and “Brand New Companion” are all represented. In fact, here’s “Poncho and Lefty”, arguably Townes’ most famous song due to the version by Willie Nelson.
Pre-order Townes here.