The Ballad of Steve Earle and Townes Zan Zandt

There’s a great article by Anthony DeCurtis in last week’s New York Times detailing alt-country great Steve Earle’s stormy relationship with his early mentor, Townes Van Zandt.

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Earle’s latest album, Townes, out May 12 on New West Records, is a tribute to the late, hard-living Texan.

The article is required reading for fans of either songwriter.

An excerpt:

“As in a lot of these kinds of relationships, the hero is the tor-mentor,” said Justin Townes Earle, Mr. Earle’s oldest son and a recording artist in his own right. The origins of his middle name are obvious. “From the day my father met Townes, Townes tortured him,” he continued, alluding to how Van Zandt mercilessly heckled his father from the audience the first time he saw him perform, repeatedly insisting that he play “The Wabash Cannonball.” “Then he became the noogie songwriter who put my dad in a headlock.” Justin suggested that his father may be irked “that Townes never said to him, ‘Great record.’ ”

“Maybe he did,” he added, “but I think if he had, my dad would have told me.”

“Townes will always be bigger than life in his head,” the younger Earle concluded. Steve Earle admitted that Van Zandt never really saw him as an adult. “I was the kid,” he said. “I understand that, and I’m cool with it. But he could be brutal with me. ”

Read the rest here.

Earle will tour behind Townes, beginning May 28 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You can currently stream Earle’s renditions of “Lungs” and “Pancho & Lefty”at

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