Friday, September 4, 2009

CD Odyssey Disc 28: Steve Earle

What disc did I randomly roll today? Answer - I didn't roll! I just decided. I decided that I needed a new rule - and that rule should be that when I buy a new album, I review that one right away - rather than waiting potentially years before it graces my car stereo.

You see, people, randomness isn't about anarcy - it is about fun. It is about using the randomness to inspire connections you might not get with the plodding linear thought of the wakeful mind.

And rules aren't about restrictions - they are about fun as well. Focusing the randomness just that small amount so you still get somewhere. Trust me on these things - I am a randomness guru and a veritable prophet of how rules can be fun.

And so here endeth the lesson on Calvinball.

Disc 28 is Townes
Artist: Steve Earle

Year of Release: 2009

How I Came To Know It: I buy everything by Steve Earle, because he rules. This is my second review of Earle - here's the first. There will be many more - I can't wait.

How It Stacks Up: I have 14 Steve Earle albums now. If he had more, I'd have more. This one is a collection of Townes Van Zandt remakes. This makes it kind of a "best of" so can't really stack it up.

Rating: 4 stars.

Townes is a collection of Townes Van Zandt remakes. Van Zandt is an outlaw country/folk artist who did most of his work from 1968-1973 but also recorded a couple albums in the eighties, I think. He lived a hard drinking, drug filled life of a rambler - and died at a comparatively young age in 1997 (I believe).

I had never heard of Townes Van Zandt, but he was a huge influence on Steve Earle, who followed him around as a young artist - as many did in the day. Earle cleaned up and is still with us, but Townes wasn't so lucky.

Anyway - I didn't know any Townes Van Zandt, except "Pancho and Lefty" which was done by mainstream artists in the eighties. The writing is astonishing and incredible. It is poignant and painful and a brilliant emotional tour of a mind that was a genius IQ, that reportedly scored 1170 on an SAT but refused college in favour of sex, drugs and rock & roll.

The songs range from a traditional bluesy sound with country twang (White Freightliner Blues, Brand New Companion) through narrative ballads (Pancho and Lefty, Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold) to deeply personal folksy songs (No Place to Fall, Colorado Girl). The range of writing is severe, and the songs hit you in the deep dark places of your heart that the majority of us take great care to hide.

Earle's voice does great work here, and he plays some of his best stuff on a variety of instruments (guitar, mandola, harmonica, harmonium, percussion). At times he gets a little quiet. It is just slightly too quiet, but it needs to be, as its clear this work was intensely personal for him to record.

Steve Earle did an homage to Townes on the the 1997 album "El Corazon". The song is called "Ft. Worth Blues" (Van Zandt is from Ft. Worth). That song was a fitting tribute to this influential, but relatively unknown songwriter. Townes is a whole album that honours Van Zandt, and does so in his own words.

I am so primed to go find some Townes Van Zandt and hear the original music. I can't frickin' wait. Bring it.

If this album weren't all remakes, it would be 5 stars. However, I'm going to say that, "as a rule" I just can't do that. Also, handpicking some of what are his best songs also makes for an unfair advantage.

My thanks to Steve Earle - the man who got me interested in Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris can add Townes Van Zandt to that august list.

I'll end this review with a couple of lines from the last song on the album, "To Live Is To Fly"

We all got holes to fill
Them holes are all that's real.
Some fall on you like a storm,
Sometimes you dig your own.
The choice is yours to make,
Time is yours to take;
Some sail upon/dive into the sea,
Some toil upon the stone.

To live is to fly
Low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes;

Best tracks: There are 15 tracks on this album and I LOVE at least 10. Just go buy the album and spare me typing them all out.

1 comment:

Joel C. said...

Thank you for the recommedation. I purchased this last week based on your review and have to agree with your assessment....I may also have to start buying TVS cd's.

Also, due to another of your fine reviews I visted Ditch records.

I believe that I should simply begin signing my paycheques over to them on the service fees...

joel c.