Steve Earle, Joe Pug | Park West | Folk & Country, Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Steve Earle, Joe Pug All Ages Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Thu., June 25, 7:30 p.m. 2009

There may not be a bigger Townes Van Zandt fan in the world than Steve Earle. Over the past 30-some years he’s not only covered his old friend’s songs but emulated his style and even named a son after him; he also followed in Van Zandt’s footsteps in other ways, developing his own debilitating drug addictions. Now he’s finally recorded an album-length tribute to him. Townes (New West) is obviously a labor of love, but though Earle reveres the songs as the treasures they are, he’s not afraid to reshape them and surround them with new sounds. Van Zandt’s iconic “Pancho and Lefty” gets transformed into a trad-sounding porch jam, the talking-country “Loretta” becomes a weird, droning stomp-along, and—in one of the album’s few unfortunate turns—“Lungs” gets the drum-machine-and-Tom Morello treatment. Earle’s crusty old-guy rasp makes an interesting contrast with Van Zandt’s clear, melodic voice, and hearing “Don’t Take It Too Bad” stripped of its mournful irony and turned into a warm, twangy shuffle suggests that Earle has finally managed to find the kind of contentment that Van Zandt never could. —Miles Raymer

Price: $34

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