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STEVE EARLE
"Townes"
Irish Release on May 15, 2009 on New West Records

www.steveearle.com ~ www.myspace.com/steveearlemusic ~ www.newwestrecords.com

15-SONG SET COMPRISED OF SONGS WRITTEN BY THE LEGENDARY SINGER-SONGWRITER,
::: TOWNES VAN ZANDT :::


Features Guest Appearances by TOM MORELLO (Rage Against The Machine, The Nightwatchmen), ALLISON MOORER, and appearing on a Steve Earle Record for the first time, JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE

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Steve Earle is set to release Townes, his highly anticipated follow up to the Grammy Award winning album Washington Square Serenade, on May 12th via New West Records. The 15-song set is comprised of songs written by Earle’s friend and mentor, the late singersongwriter, Townes Van Zandt. Townes will also be available as a deluxe two-CD set, as well as double Limited Edition 180 gram vinyl.

The album was produced by Earle at his home in Greenwich Village, at Sound Emporium and Room and Board in Nashville, TN and The Nest in Hollywood, CA. The track “Lungs,” was produced and mixed by the Dust Brothers’ John King and features Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine/The Nightwatchman on electric guitar. Earle’s wife, the acclaimed singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, is featured on backing vocals on “Loretta” and “To Live Is To Fly.” Three songs cut in Nashville, “White Freightliner Blues,” “Delta Momma Blues,” and “Don’t Take It Too Bad” feature a bluegrass band consisting of Dennis Crouch, Tim O’Brien, Darrel Scott and Shad Cobb.

Earle met Townes Van Zandt in 1972 at one of Earle’s performances at The Old Quarter in Houston, TX. Van Zandt was in the audience and playfully heckled Earle throughout the performance to play the song “Wabash Cannonball” Earle admitted that he didn’t know how to play the tune and Van Zandt replied incredibly “You call yourself a folksinger and you don’t know ‘Wabash Cannonball?’” Earle then silenced him by playing the Van Zandt song “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold,” not an easy feat due to its quickly-paced mouthful of lyrics squeezed into just over two minutes of song. Their bond was immediately formed. On Townes, Earle and his son, singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle (named after Van Zandt) trade verses on the tune, a song the two of them have been playing together since Justin was a teenager.

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 and Lefty,” “Lungs,” “White Freightliner Blues”) and others he had to learn specifically for recording. He learned the song “(Quicksilver
Daydreams of) Maria”
directly from Van Zandt, and taught himself “Marie” and “Rake” specifically for the album’s recording. Once a song he played during his live show, Earle relearned “Colorado Girl” in the original Open D tuning that Van Zandt played it in. Earle recorded the New York sessions solo and then added the other instruments later on in order to preserve the spirit of Van Zandt’s original solo
performances to the best of his recollection.

When speaking about Townes, Earle stated, “This may be one of the best records I’ve ever made. That hurts a singer-songwriter’s feelings. Then again, it’s some consolation that I cherry picked through the career of one of the best songwriters that ever lived.”

TRACKLISTING:

Pancho And Lefty
White Freight Liner Blues
Colorado Girl
Where I Lead Me
Lungs
No Place To Fall
Loretta
Brand New Companion
Rake
Delta Momma Blues
Marie
Don’t Take It Too Bad
Mr. Mudd And Mr. Gold
(Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria
To Live Is To Fly


Deluxe Limited Edition 2 x CD content – Acoustic version of the album. Fold out poster of the cover art. Expanded liner notes with lyrics.


 
 
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"The city hasn't changed as much as real estate agents would have you believe," Steve Earle explains about his adopted hometown of New York City. "Specifically, my neighborhood hasn't changed that much. I point people in the right direction so that they can take their picture like the cover of Freewheelin' all the time."

That's easy enough for Earle these days, because he and his wife, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, now live on the very Greenwich Village street on which the famous cover shot for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1962) was taken. In that photo, Dylan and his then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo huddle against the cold as they walk along a snowy New York street. It's an indelible romantic image that captures the idealism of the folk revival that was gathering momentum in New York at the time.

Steve Earle's gripping new album, Washington Square Serenade, is a loving tribute to that era, that movement, that music and the city that gave them all a nurturing home. "That period changed pop music," Earle says. "It made lyrics much more important. Rock & roll could have become a subgenre of pop if it hadn't been for that literary aspect, which completely came out of a four-block area in New York City in one brief instant of time."

Like Freewheelin' itself, Serenade is an album that combines songs of love and protest, a stirring chronicle of both the connections between people that make life worth living and the things that must be changed in order to make such connections more possible for everyone. "I knew it was going to be pretty personal," Earle says about the album, which he recorded at Electric Lady Studios, the famed Greenwich Village recording complex that Jimi Hendrix built in the late Sixties. "The best part of my personal life was going so well I knew that chick songs were going to be no problem. As for political songs, I don't think I've ever made an apolitical record. The last two before this [The Revolution Starts … Now (2004), Jerusalem (2002)] were overtly political, and unapologetically so. This one is unapologetically personal."

Washington Square Serenade opens with "Tennessee Blues," which updates the title track of Earle's 1986 debut album, Guitar Town – and establishes the sense of another fresh start. The new version is acoustic, more introspective and more rhythmically charged – all traits highly appropriate for the tale of an artist "bound for New York City" and leaving Tennessee behind. "It's continuing a narrative – the state of me," Earle explains.

The "chick songs," as Earle describes them in apt period slang, include the lovely "Sparkle and Shine," which echoes both early Dylan and the Beatles, and "Days Aren't Long Enough," which Earle co-wrote and sings with Moorer. "I've written duets for Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent and my sister Stacey, so there was no way I was going to get away with not writing a duet for me and Allison," Earle says, laughing. "I had to – I'm married! But we've been singing together as long as we've been together, and I wanted something that was a love song about us."

On the other end of Earle's passions, "Steve's Hammer," which the singer dedicates to Pete Seeger, is an uplifting political anthem, a statement of Earle's conviction about the role that music can play in achieving social justice. "One of these days I'm gonna lay this hammer down/Leave my burden restin' on the ground," he declares, and then makes clear when and only when that day will come: "When the air don't choke you, and the ocean's clean/And the kids don't die for gasoline."

As we all know, that time has not yet arrived, and "City of Immigrants" makes that point forcefully. A paean to New York's long history of welcoming people from other countries, the song had a very specific inspiration for Earle. "I knew I wanted to write a ‘Fuck Lou Dobbs' song," he says about the CNN anchor who has defined anti-immigration politics as his signature issue. "There's no excuse for it – it's ugly and it's racist." Supporting Earle on the song is Forro in the Dark, the super-charged neo-folk Brazilian band that's based in New York.

Washington Square Serenade concludes with Earle's scarifying version of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole," which will serve as the theme for the next season of the HBO series "The Wire." Earle has a recurring role on the show – "I play a redneck recovering addict, so it's not acting," he deadpans.

"It's daunting to cover a Tom Waits song – he's one of the best of my generation of songwriters," Earle admits. "But, then, I once sang ‘Nebraska' to an audience that I knew Bruce Springsteen was in. It's not that stuff like that doesn't scare me – it's just that doesn't mean I won't do it!"

Overall, Serenade is imbued with a deeply intimate feel, because all of its concerns, public as well as private, as essential to who Steve Earle is. That intensely personal quality, however, is deftly complemented – both underscored and unsettled -- by John King's production. As one half of the Dust Brothers, King has worked with the likes of Beck and the Beastie Boys. As a result, rhythms continually percolate, bump and simmer beneath the largely acoustic instrumentation, fashioning a folk/hip-hop hybrid that sonically unites two of New York's finest musical traditions.

Asked how he would like listeners to respond to Washington Square Serenade, Earle, characteristically, is ready with a bold answer. "If you feel like you don't know what America is all about right now, and you want to reorient yourself to what America should be about, it's a really good time to come to New York City," he says. "I needed really badly at this point in my life to see a mixed-race, same-sex couple holding hands in my own neighborhood. It makes me feel safer."

"I've been pretty heartbroken about the way things have gone politically in this country the last few years, and I seriously considered moving someplace else," he concludes. "Then I figured out that I didn't have to leave the country. All I had to do was come to New York."

Washington Square Serenade – in its commitment, its values, its musical intelligence and, finally, its very American optimism about the possibilities for a better world – demonstrates why.
- Anthony DeCurtis


 
 
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