Earle's 2009 tribute to Townes Van Zandt felt haunted, the hardcore troubadour evincing an emotionality from the late Texan's songs that understood the sad pains of addiction and art. His tribute to Guy Clark offers a different kind of homage. Across 16 tracks, the 64-year-old Virginia native and his ace band largely play it straight, and the album leaps with energy and celebration.
While he found his fame in Nashville, Steve Earle was born in Texas, and he cut his teeth as a songwriter in the '70s while hovering on the outskirts of the Lone Star State's circle of great tunesmiths. The literate but unpretentious approach of the Texas songwriting community clearly suited Earle, and he's never been shy about acknowledging his influences from his early days. In 2009, Earle released the album Townes, in which he paid homage to his good friend and mentor Townes van Zandt, recording 15 of his best songs.
Steve Earle essentially had two mentors as he came up as a songwriter. The first was Townes Van Zandt; the other was Guy Clark. A decade ago Earle released a tribute to the former, and for a while now he's been half-joking about the need to do one for the latter. After Clark's death in 2016, the project became more serious.