Steve Earle goes all-out tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker.
Release Date: 27th May 2022
Label: New West Records
Format: CD / streaming / vinyl
To have written one song, which would be covered by multiple esteemed artists would be achievement enough but if that song happens to be Mr Bojangles then even the most prolific songwriter would see it as a lifetime career highlight. However, Jerry Jeff Walker has a legacy that goes far beyond that as his compositions have inspired many a country artist some of which attained their own place in the country music hall of fame.Steve Earle’s respect for him has spread to his 22nd album being dedicated to Jerry Jeff.
A Grammy award winner himself, this tribute emanates from a memorial concert performance to JJ, who sadly passed away in 2021. With the Dukes, he has selected 10 songs representing the varying styles of JJ’s output. This collection includes his own interpretation of Mr Bojangles in which he pours his heart and soul.
JJ Walker was the guiding light for Steve Earle from early in his career and set the standard by which he measured his own career. He readily admits that his musical boyhood ambition as a young performer was to be Jerry Jeff Walker.
The mercurial Steve Earle himself is no stranger to performing eclectic musical styles and from foot stomping lively tunes like Getting By and Gypsy Songman which are more akin to his own upbeat country style, to sensitive ballads like The Wheel and My Old Man, in which Earl’s mournful vocals enhance the song and story within. These two songs also represent delving into JJ’s ability to sustain unique songwriting skills over a prolonged period. He, like Steve Earle, was no flash in the pan.
All the way through to the acapella sung Old Road (accompanied only by blues harmonica) which is a stunning close to this respectful tribute, Earle’s love for the songs shines through. It’s not just a tribute, but a real labour of love.
That respect lovingly shines through on every track which maps in chronological order Jerry Jeff Walker’s life in music so I’ll leave the final words to Steve Earle who says: “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”
Here’s Mr Bojangles: