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Steve Earle 

Townes (New West)

Country-folk singer-songwriter and poet Townes Van Zandt died in 1997 on New Year's Day. A dozen years later, his cult has grown beyond country contrarians. Fellow Texan Steve Earle's spin is spirited and often flavoured with an Irish folk lilt; in other words, not so depressing. Van Zandt's most famous song, "Pancho and Lefty," is done by the book, yet Earle distinguishes it with the odd bent note. Scruffy distortion---Earle's rocking signature---surfaces as if from a mine on "Lungs." Playing cards come to life in "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold," a duet with son Justin Townes Earle. Rarely have esteem and influence been so palpable in a tribute.

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