New West Records have announced the release of a new album by Steve Earle and the Dukes ‘Jerry Jeff’ which lands on May 27th. The album pays tribute to influential cowboy troubadour Jerry Jeff Walker, who passed away on October 23rd, 2021. After performing in Texas at a concert celebrating Walker’s life, Earle took his band, The Dukes, to Electric Lady Studios in New York, where they recorded 10 of Walker’s songs.
Earle has shared their freewheeling rendition of ‘Gettin’ By,’ which is the album’s opening track which you can listen to below. Adding a few personal twists to the lyrics, he admits to his greatest boyhood ambition: to be Jerry Jeff Walker.
“This record completes the set, the work of my first-hand teachers,” Earle writes in the liner notes, referencing 2009’s ‘Townes’ and 2019’s ‘Guy’, which he made after the deaths of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. “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,” says Earle.
Earle was 14 when he first heard Walker. His high school drama teacher gave him a copy of “Mr. Bojangles,” Walker’s classic ballad about an unforgettable character he met in a New Orleans jail. After Earle moved to Nashville in the 1970s, he had the opportunity to get to know Walker, who enlisted him as his designated driver.
“There’s a tendency to think of Jerry Jeff around a relationship to one song,” Earle says, referring to ‘Mr. Bojangles,’ which was covered by everyone from Bob Dylan to Sammy Davis Jr. “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.”
Earle delivers a soulful ‘Mr. Bojangles’ on the new album, but also covers some of Walker’s lesser-known classics – meditative ballads like 1969’s ‘Old Road’ and 1973’s ‘Wheel.’ Other highlights include joyful takes of ‘Charlie Dunn,’ Walker’s endearing tribute to the bootmaker, and ‘Gypsy Songman’, a stomping busking anthem.
Steve Earle – ‘JERRY JEFF’ Track Listing:
I Make Money (Money Don’t Make Me)
Hill Country Rain
My Old Man
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