Steve Earle & The Dukes are set to return with Guy on March 29th, 2019. A return to New West Records, the 16-song set is comprised of songs written by one of his two primary songwriting mentors, the legendary Guy Clark. Guy appears ten years after his Grammy Award winning album Townes, his tribute to his other songwriting mentor, Townes Van Zandt. Produced by Earle and recorded by his long-time production partner Ray Kennedy, Guy features his latest, and possibly best, incarnation of his backing band The Dukes including Kelley Looney on bass, Chris Masterson on guitar, Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle & mandolin, Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel guitar, and Brad Pemberton on drums & percussion. Guy also features guest appearances by fellow Guy Clark cohorts Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Terry Allen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Mickey Raphael, Shawn Camp, Verlon Thompson, Gary Nicholson, and the photographer Jim McGuire.
Steve Earle first met Guy Clark after hitchhiking from San Antonio to Nashville in 1974. A few months after his arrival, he found himself taking over for a young Rodney Crowell as bassist in Guy’s band.
“No way I could get out of doing this record,” says Earle. “When I get to the other side, I didn’t want to run into Guy having made the Townes record and not one about him.” Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark were like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to me.”
The mercurial Van Zandt (1944-1997) who once ordered his teenage disciple to chain him to a tree in hopes that it would keep him from drinking, was the On The Road quicksilver of youth. Clark, 33 at the time Earle met him, was a longer lasting, more mellow burn.
“When it comes to mentors, I’m glad I had both,” says Earle. “If you asked Townes what it’s all about, he’d hand you a copy of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. If you asked Guy the same question, he’d take out a piece of paper and teach you how to diagram a song, what goes where. Townes was one of the all-time great writers, but he only finished three songs during the last fifteen years of his life. Guy had cancer and wrote songs until the day he died…he painted, he built instruments, he owned a guitar shop in the Bay Area where the young Bobby Weir hung out. He was older and wiser. You hung around with him and knew why they call what artists do disciplines. Because he was disciplined.”
“Guy wasn’t really a hard record to make,” Earle says. “We did it fast, five or six days with almost no overdubbing. I wanted it to sound live…When you’ve got a catalogue like Guy’s and you’re only doing sixteen tracks, you know each one is going to be strong.
There was another reason, Earle said, he couldn’t “get out of” making Guy. “You know,” he said, “as you live your life, you pile up these regrets. I’ve done a lot of things that might be regrettable, but most of them I don’t regret because I realize I couldn’t have done anything else at the time. With Guy, however, there was this thing. When he was sick — he was dying really for the last ten years of his life — he asked me if we could write a song together. We should do it ‘for the grandkids,’ he said. Well, I don’t know…at the time, I still didn’t co-write much, then I got busy. Then Guy died and it was too late. That, I regret.”
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There are no videos from the new album yet but here’s a live version of a classic recorded a few days ago: