According to a press release, Earle and Van Zandt first met when Van Zandt heckled an Earle show in 1972, the sort of thing that must be a total nightmare for most singer-songwriters. But the two stayed tight until Van Zandt’s death in 1997.
Dust Brother John King, who produced Earle’s 2007 album Washington Square Serenade, mans the boards on one song, “Lungs”. On that same song, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello guests on guitar. (And yes, he does play one of those wikki-wikki turntable-scratch solos, but it sort of works.) Singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, Earle’s wife, sings backup on “To Live Is to Fly” and “Loretta”. Earle also recruited a backing band of bluegrass all-stars to play on several songs. And duetting on “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”: Earle’s son Justin Townes Earle, appearing on record with his dad for the first time. (Earle really must’ve loved the guy if he named his kid after him.)
In the album’s press release, Earle has this to say: “This may be one of the best records I’ve ever made. That hurts a singer-songwriter’s feelings. Then again, it’s some consolation that I cherry picked through the career of one of the best songwriters that ever lived.” Aww.
You have to admire Earle for recording an entire Townes Van Zandt tribute album and not including “If I Needed You”. That takes some balls.