Steve Earle to Release Tribute Record to Jerry Jeff Walker
They were all of our heroes. But to Steve Earle, they were his friends and mentors. As the young pup of the Texas-born songwriters who flocked to Nashville to save country music during the 70’s Outlaw movement, including sitting there at the kitchen table of Guy Clark as he sang his heart out on Heartworn Highways, Steve Earle was the fly on the wall for it all. And as his friends have fallen—Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and even his own son Justin Townes—Steve has stood up with his band The Dukes to pay tribute.
Jerry Jeff Walker died on October 23rd, 2020, but not before becoming a folk hero from the song “Mr. Bojangles,” and helping to set up the conditions in Austin, TX that would ultimately make it the Live Music Capital of the World, and an alternative to Nashville. And now one of his many understudies will release the tribute JERRY JEFF on May 27th via New West Records.
“This record completes the set, the work of my first-hand teachers,” Earle explains in the liner notes, referencing 2009’s TOWNES and 2019’s GUY after they passed away. “The records were recorded and released in the order in which they left this world. But make no mistake – it was Jerry Jeff Walker who came first.”
Steve Earle says that he first heard Jerry Jeff Walker when he was 14, after a high school drama teacher handed him a copy of “Mr. Bojangles.” Earle would later meet Jerry Jeff personally in Nashville, and became his designated driver for a stint. But Steve Earle also wants to know that Jerry Jeff wasn’t just “The guy that wrote ‘Mr. Bonjangles,'” even if that song put him on the map after everyone from Bob Dylan, to Sammy Davis Jr. recorded it.
“There’s a tendency to think of Jerry Jeff around a relationship to one song. He was also such a great interpreter of other people’s songs. But my main purpose in recording this album was to remind people that he wrote a lot of fucking great songs,” says Earle, who cut the record with The Dukes at the Electric Lady Studios in New York. Though synonymous with Texas, Jerry Jeff Walker was originally from midstate New York himself.
Ahead of the album, Steve Earle has released the song “Gettin’ By,” which started off Jerry Jeff Walker’s iconic album Viva Terlingua! released in 1973 recorded in Luckenbach, Texas.
Along with putting his own catalog of songs together, what made Jerry Jeff Walker so important was how he used the popularity he accrued from “Mr. Bojangles” to highlight his fellow songwriters, cutting songs from Ray Wylie Hubbard (“Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother”), Guy Clark (“L.A. Freeway”), Willis Alan Ramsey (“Northeast Texas Women”), Michael Martin Murphy (“Backslider’s Wine”), and so many more. Now Steve Earle and The Dukes will return the favor.
JERRY JEFF is now available for pre-order.
- Gettin’ By
- Gypsy Songman
- Little Bird
- I Make Money (Money Don’t Make Me)
- Mr. Bojangles
- Hill Country Rain
- Charlie Dunn
- My Old Man
- Old Road
April 8, 2022 @ 10:19 am
Sorry to be negative, but this cover is lazy and unnecessary in my opinion–basically a karaoke copy. It doesn’t add anything to the song. Plus, Steve, no one who’s going to listen to this album needs you to tell them that Jerry Jeff wrote (and interpreted) songs other than Mr. Bojangles.
April 8, 2022 @ 11:23 am
The same artist has been creating Earle’s covers for decades now. Trig can name the artist. They are becoming redundant (maybe), but not lazy. What are album covers anymore anyways?
April 8, 2022 @ 12:40 pm
The artists that does all of Steve Earle’s covers is Tony Fitzpatrick. He’s been featured in big museum displays, both for his cover art and other work. Yes, he approaches each album with the same basic motif. Guessing Steve likes it that way. Otherwise he would change.
I believe Matt F. is referring to the cover version of “Gettin’ By” though.
April 8, 2022 @ 12:43 pm
Hoptown, I wasn’t referring to the album cover, but to the cover version of the song. (I don’t especially like the album cover, either, lol.)
April 8, 2022 @ 1:08 pm
Oh… sorry. That’s funny. The cover of the song is standard fare and I love Earle standard fare. I think the teacher trilogy is more a labor of love and an audible historical anthology of Earle’s heroes more than a work of art —- a fan piece. But, to each his own.
April 8, 2022 @ 5:33 pm
Love the album cover. Because i really like blackbirds. They are quite intelligent.
Also, Love Coconut Grove. Yoga in the park, under a sky of stars, – feels like freedom, itself. And, love Key West.
On Bill Monroe Memorial Hwy today ( so Trigger doesn’t kick my a** for not talking about music) bought two small jars of Brown County pure honey & 32 ounces of Brown County Pure Maple Syrup. Holy cow, might i take this moment to say that the B.C.P.MS. looks a hell of a lot better than the pure “dark amber” maple syrup i purchased at the health food store in Burlington, Vermont, while at UVM 2003 – 2005.
Also, Steve Earle & The Dukes are coming to B.C.M.C. on 3 June.
Love hearing Isaac Rudd & The Revolvers cover Copperhead Road at Hard Truth Hills.
Not sure if i want to pay the money for a ticket to see Steve Earle sing it.
April 9, 2022 @ 6:55 am
Was this a drunk post?
April 9, 2022 @ 8:07 am
: D well, not entirely …
Was defending the album cover.
Really do like blackbirds, Coconut Grove, & the Keys.
Ok, so probably illustrating the finer points of Brown County maple syrup vs. Vermont maple syrup, had a little help
April 9, 2022 @ 1:47 pm
JJW is at the heart of so many musical memories for me from bars in Belize to Gruene Hall or the Paramount Theater in Austin JJW music represents freedom and travel and great times woven together with the stories JJW’s songs conveyed. Steve Earle and his music strike up similar emotions in me. I have enjoyed his tributes to TVZ , Guy Clark and look forward to hearing Steve’s tribute to JJW. Steve’s take on gettin by captures the gonzo freewheelin vibe of the song wonderfully. RIP Maestro and God bless Steve Earle for doing these tributes.
April 9, 2022 @ 3:03 pm
You make it a habit to object to JJF covers? 😄
April 9, 2022 @ 3:15 pm
If you mean JJW, yes, I stand at the ready.
April 9, 2022 @ 4:16 pm
The very JJ I had in mind. Don’t know how that “F” snuck in there instead.
I was alluding to the little discussion we had a couple of years back about the Moonpies’ cover of “London Homesick Blues” that you objected to as well.
April 9, 2022 @ 5:52 pm
You know, I knew you had something in mind, but I couldn’t quite summon it up. Good memory! And yes, I guess I have strong feelings on this incredibly narrow subject, lol. Hope you’ve been well.
April 10, 2022 @ 12:52 pm
I’ve been good. Good to see you still around these parts.
April 8, 2022 @ 10:33 am
You know you are living rough when Steve Earle is your DD!
April 8, 2022 @ 10:48 am
That’s a GROSS INSULT to Jerry Jeff Walker!
Patrick and J.B. are like your grandfathers!
April 8, 2022 @ 1:21 pm
Why don’t you like Steve Earle?
Wilson Pick It
April 8, 2022 @ 10:22 pm
Politics, most likely
April 8, 2022 @ 1:22 pm
Hopefully this album exposes Mr. Walker’s music to a new audience. Most young people only know the name Jerry Jeff Walker from a line in the Toby Keith song “Beers Ago”.
April 8, 2022 @ 1:40 pm
And Brooks and Dunn with the Ballad of Jerry Jeff Walker
April 8, 2022 @ 5:27 pm
Back to the basics of love is another classic with JJ reference.
April 8, 2022 @ 9:01 pm
That’s the one (“Luckenbach, Texas”) that sent me looking for him–and my whole life changed. After Willie, Jerry Jeff was my gateway drug 35 years ago.
April 8, 2022 @ 10:51 pm
Yes, that’s the other one lol. I feel horrible for thinking of Keith’s “middle of the road” song over that classic.
April 8, 2022 @ 1:27 pm
I like these tribute albums from Steve Earle and im not a big fan of tribute albums. This is a great way for him to pay tribute to his close friends and some of the best songwriters we’ll ever see. Steve Earle saw these songs grow first hand and there’s nobody better to do a tribute. These aren’t common covers and his band the Dukes do a great job. Im no trying to convince others, just stating my opinion on these tribute albums by Steve Earle.
Todd Snider did a great tribute JJW albumn while JJW was alive and he did one for Kent Finlay. Pretty stand up IMO, what better way to pay tribute than put it on record.
April 8, 2022 @ 1:49 pm
And here I was making fun of Steve Earle when John Prine died saying I wonder how long before he cuts a prine tribute record and makes a statement about how prine was better than Townes and Guy.
Turns out JJ was next in line instead.
Its not just that i find the cover albums add very little, its more his attitude, especially how he talked up Townes for the first album, then said Guy was better, now apparently JJ was number one.
April 8, 2022 @ 2:04 pm
I read that quote more like JJW was the first … the first to influence him. If he was JJW’s DD, Earle had to very be young. But I also thought Matt F. was critiquing the album art.
April 8, 2022 @ 2:37 pm
Haha, I think you’re right. I’m guilty of intentionally quoting out of context to support my argument.
I think its because there wasn’t any need for Steve to be so comparing.
Also, he seems to be comparing the people more than the songs.
Just something not sitting right there with me.
Don’t get me wrong, Steve is a talented person with a history of great music, I just really got triggered by the tribute albums
April 8, 2022 @ 3:47 pm
@JB4–I suppose Steve Earle could be like Clint Black or Travis Tritt and wait for a blue moon, for all the stars to align and for all the ducks to be in a row before putting out a new album–even if it takes 15 years.
That’s not Steve. When he has something to say and feels like recording something, he does it. It’s not like he garners so much media attention that he intrudes on your life. You only learn about what he’s doing if you seek it out. If you don’t like his tribute albums–or any of his music–don’t buy them. Apparently, enough people buy them to keep him on the road and to keep some record label interested in putting out his stuff.
April 8, 2022 @ 2:04 pm
Its Steve Earle, consider the source. Im a Steve Earle music fan, not sure I want to sit down with the guy and drink beer with him. But he has been around these guys his whole life and has a pretty kick ass band backing him. I get you comment and understand what your saying, but then again, its Steve Earle. I don’t think he’s ever been the best of the attitude guys out there.
April 8, 2022 @ 2:20 pm
Mans loves his tribute albums. Respect.
April 8, 2022 @ 2:33 pm
Thanks for the heads up – just preordered it! I loved the Guy Clark one, I think because the Dukes kick ass and I enjoy new versions of songs I know by heart, even if they’re at times close. This relatively contemporary idea that songs done once are done and should never be covered again always grates on me – they’re not all gems but I love the dozens of “Me and Bobby McGee” covers I have – including Jerry Jeff’s. Besides, it’s nice Susan will get a little more in the royalties if this sells well…
April 8, 2022 @ 2:50 pm
Not an Earle fan generally (his song Dixieland does kick ass) but we need more cover albums. They are a forgotten part of country music.
April 8, 2022 @ 3:42 pm
I love Steve Earle and love his tribute albums but damn if the past few just sounded terrible, including this first single from the Jerry Jeff album — I know J.T. was recorded at Electric Lady but they just sound like crap, lacking dynamics, separation, etc.
April 8, 2022 @ 3:44 pm
I wish he would just stop doing these albums, they’re not great.
April 8, 2022 @ 11:24 pm
I’m a big fan of Earle’s first nine records. He lost me after Transcendental Blues because he got a little nutty politically. I saw him at a show in Toronto, Canada during the TB tour, and he was ranting about the death penalty. Canada has no death penalty. People were like, “just fucking sing.”
He won me back with I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, The Low Highway and Terraplane, and then I kind of tuned out for So You Wanna Be An Outlaw (I thought it was a weak and lazy album), but I did enjoy Ghosts Of West Virginia.
As far as the tribute albums go, I thought Townes (The Deluxe Version) was a true work of art, especially the second disc of songs with just Earle and his guitar. Guy Was okay, and JT was heartfelt, I just think get the feeling that at this point the well has run dry. I could be wrong, and it’s not a dig against the man, he’s a brilliant songwriter. I find these stopgap releases to be boring.
April 9, 2022 @ 5:03 am
I just wish he would have picked more obscure JJW songs, like ‘Contrary to Ordinary’ instead of the usual ones, but It’s nice for the tribute to a man that I have been a huge fan of since 1977.
April 9, 2022 @ 6:53 am
I think this is a logical reaction to having mentors that end up being (sorry for the inference) the Mt Rushmores of song writing and performance. They are in his blood and were his close personal friends. This is love and honor. To the best if his ability. Some times a song can’t be bettered than it’s original version
April 9, 2022 @ 8:14 am
IMHO Steve’s “Townes” album was great. Steve put a different spin on some of the cuts (Lungs, Loretta, etc) and with the contributing musicians it is great music. To me, “Guy” seemed like Steve went through the motions, which was disappointing to this Guy fan.
April 9, 2022 @ 4:58 pm
It was only great if you hadn’t heard what Lyle Lovett did to Lungs and Loretta (and flying shoes) previously.
I thought better had already been done
Great Caesar’s Ghost
April 9, 2022 @ 9:03 am
I listened to the cover for of “Gettin’ By” and am just curious: what’s up with the grunting after nearly every word? Is this a new thing with Senor Earle?
April 10, 2022 @ 7:17 pm
At his age, he’s likely gasping for air. He really seems to be struggling vocal wise. He was never the same after the incident with the gestapo cop (in Dallas, I believe) in the ’80s. He voice was damaged in the altercation, and he’s never sounded the same.
April 11, 2022 @ 3:42 pm
He has COPD… I think years of smoking crack and cigarettes are a bigger factor than the Dallas injury at this point, even though he quit both.
April 11, 2022 @ 10:52 pm
Earle has has commented before on how the damage from the Dallas Cop, who hard a serious hard-on for Earle, damaged his voice.It was never the same. All of the heroin and shit he did, certainly didn’t help, agree.
April 12, 2022 @ 11:18 am
I responded, but there was a glitch and it posted below. He has said that in the past, but in the last 10 years or so when he talks about his voice, he talks about COPD and using yoga to learn to breath better. The current gasping has much more to do with the breathing issues.
April 9, 2022 @ 11:35 am
It remains to be seen how this works out. I am surprised by some of Steves choices. I actually lost track of Steve after Guitar Town. That was a pretty phenomenal album. I think Jerry Jeff and Steve were closer than many of us realize. Steve was a performer at the memorial for Jerry Jeff and that came as a surprise to me.
April 9, 2022 @ 9:30 pm
I’m not a big fan of tribute albums it’s shredding on the original writer and singer of the song. I bought the Steve Earl double of Townes Van Zandt and I was just very disappointed and his interpretation of everyone of Townes Van Zandt songs.! Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker H sang from the bottom of their soul and there songs and albums help Define my life I’m a huge fan of the original people singing their songs with their own interpretation. Thank you for my opinion.?
April 10, 2022 @ 7:21 pm
Thank you for your opinion? Why? Your opinion comes across as uniformed, and I reckon you need two get the shit cleaned out of your ears. Townes was a brilliant collection, especially the Deluxe Edition’s second disc. But you know what they say about opinions.
I’d love to hear your interpretations of Townes’ songs, John, or anything you’ve written or recorded.
April 10, 2022 @ 4:16 am
What is this growling nonsense? And I certainly do not get an easy come easy go vibe from Steve Earle. I am not totally sold on a dude that hates a lot of stuff doing a Jerry Jeff album. JJW was one of the tallest mountains of positivity ever in country and it just doesn’t translate all that well.
April 10, 2022 @ 7:24 pm
The growling a vocal issue. Steve has calmed down considerably: read the statement he released before the last election. I almost fell off my chair when I read it.
April 11, 2022 @ 11:19 am
That ” growling” thing hes doing is pretty bizarre. Its like some weird tic hes developed. Hes doing it at the end of every sentence, like some sort of strange audible punctuation. Mighty weird indeed.
April 10, 2022 @ 5:15 pm
The live version of LA Freeway off A Man Must Carry on is one ass kicking song. I have it on 3 or 4 playlists and love it when it hits while I’m working out.
Jerry Jeff is a legend.
I saw Earle sit in with the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theatre around 2011. They covered Cash’s, Devil’s Right Hand & Dylan’s, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. He left his guitar backstage which was smart of him.
April 10, 2022 @ 7:00 pm
You’re absolutely correct about LA Freeway. Great version.
April 10, 2022 @ 7:29 pm
They covered Cash’s “Devil’s Righthand?” 🙄 Earle wrote that song and was playing it during the Exit 0 tour in the 80s, before he recorded it.
“Glad he left his guitar back stage, which was smart of him.” What a dumb comment. Earle believe it or not, is a solid guitar player. And truth be told, unless they’re on the level of Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks, most singer-songwriters would leave their guitar backstage.
April 10, 2022 @ 7:33 pm
loosen your panties sweetheart
April 11, 2022 @ 10:56 pm
Educate yourself on topics before you shoot off your cockholster without knowing what you’re taking about, pumpkin. Research is your friend.
April 12, 2022 @ 7:33 am
butt hurt Jimmy throwing a tantrum
April 10, 2022 @ 6:56 pm
Hell yeah, I listen to Jerry Jeff!
April 11, 2022 @ 7:48 am
What was that incident? I’ve never heard about that.
Nick - Chicago
April 11, 2022 @ 11:38 am
Here’s an article from 1990 when he was promoting “The Hard Way.” He talks about getting choked out by a Dallas cop after a New Year’s Eve show. It doesn’t go into great detail, but it is a start.
Nick - Chicago
April 11, 2022 @ 11:39 am
I would help if I gave the link: https://earofnewt.com/2014/04/06/steve-earle-on-cops-bikers-jail-ted-bundy-and-the-hard-way/
April 11, 2022 @ 11:59 am
Thank you! Interesting interview. Do you think the journalist really believed Earle was in his room taking ASPIRIN to deal with a headache, lol?
Nick - Chicago
April 11, 2022 @ 12:03 pm
Haha. Probably similar to George Jones going to the liquor store on his tractor at 2am.
April 11, 2022 @ 11:00 pm
Well, his parents where with him when it happened, so I doubt he was sticking needles in his arms or snorting a bag of blow in their presence.
Check out Lauren St. John’s The Life and Near Death Of Steve Earle. I believe he talks about the incident in great detail.
April 11, 2022 @ 9:29 pm
I love Steve and sometimes some things don’t need covers. This is one of them times . Much respect . Why not try “Night Riders Lament “
April 12, 2022 @ 11:16 am
He has said that in the past, but in the last 10 years or so when he talks about his voice, he talks about COPD and using yoga to learn to breath better. The current gasping has much more to do with the breathing issues.
April 16, 2022 @ 2:17 am
Maybe cover’s is not the best material that has come from Steve Earle but he has been writing songs for artist as far bast as i Johnny Lee I believe hell there song called Steve Earle from Sugarland it’s almost a joke song but it’s there, also i say he pretty much has had one of the worst year’s of his life loosing his son JT to an overdose and trying to raise younger son John Henry who is battling autism. my opinion I think we can suck up a few covers
April 18, 2022 @ 7:23 pm
I liked Steve Earle a lot better when he WASN’T the Euronymous of country music.
Paul William Smart
May 7, 2022 @ 12:40 am
I’ve seen Steve Earle and the Dukes several times over the years…in the States and Sweden and Australia. He’s definitely getting better with age. I like everything about Steve except his politics. I just pre-ordered ‘Jerry Jeff ’ for late August delivery here in Australia. I’ve loved JJW since the early 70’s. I hope the rest of the cuts on ‘Jerry Jeff’ are as good as ‘Gettin’ By’!