Steve Earle plays Britt

Rock and country artist Steve Earle's new album, "Townes," may be one of the best records he's ever made, the singer and songwriter stated in a press release.

The album, a tribute to songwriter Townes Van Zandt, won the 2010 Grammy for best contemporary folk album.

Earle's career has taken him through the genres of rockabilly, alternative country and outlaw rock. But at the start, he was the thrall of country folksinger and songwriter Van Zandt.

Earle will perform Thursday, July 1, at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville.

"Townes" captures Earle's memory of Van Zandt with 15 hand-picked songs. The album follows "Washington Square Serenade," Earle's 2008 Grammy winner for best contemporary folk album.

"Townes" was produced by Earle and features his wife, Allison Moorer, on backing vocals.

Earle met Van Zandt in 1972 at one of Earle's performances at The Old Quarter in Houston, Texas, and a bond between the two musicians formed instantly.

On "Townes," Earle and his son, Justin Townes Earle, trade verses on Van Zandt's "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold," a song the two have been playing together since Justin was a teenager.

Other songs Earle selected for "Townes" include "Pancho and Lefty," "Lungs" and "White Freightliner Blues" — tunes that Earle has played during his career. Earle learned other songs by Van Zandt specifically for the album.

Van Zandt's debut album, "For The Sake Of The Song," was released in 1968. His last, "No Deeper Blue," appeared in 1995. His life and music are the subject of a 2006 documentary film, "Be Here to Love Me." Van Zandt died in 1997.

Like Van Zandt, Earle is a master storyteller. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt, The Pretenders, Joan Baez and others.

Earle released his debut album, "Guitar Town," in 1986. The record shot to No. 1 on the country charts and established the genre of new country.

An array of 12 releases followed, including the hard-rocking "Copperhead Road," an acoustic studio album titled "Train a Comin" and a politically charged alternative country album titled "Jerusalem."

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio featuring Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, will open the Britt show with music inspired by old-time fiddler Joe Thompson.

Tickets cost $20 to $36. Call 541-773-6077 or visit

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