Steve Earle Set to Release Tribute Album to Country Icon Jerry Jeff Walker in May

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Jerry Jeff Walker left us 18 months ago, but Steve Earle believes the music of his friend and mentor is timeless. So why not pay tribute to the country music star in the best way possible?

That’s singing all the best Jerry Jeff Walker songs and releasing them on an album. Steve Earle and the Dukes are calling their new album “Jerry Jeff.” It comes out May 20.

And his Jerry Jeff Walker album also finishes off another Steve Earle project. He did a trio of records saluting his mentors. The other two he dedicated to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Basically, it was one Texan singing the greatest songs of his fellow Lone Star country music outlaws.

“This record completes the set, the work of my first-hand teachers,” Earle told BrooklynVegan.com. “There’s a tendency to think of Jerry Jeff around a relationship to one song,” 

Of Course Steve Earle Will Cover Best Song Ever By Jerry Jeff Walker

Now, let’s address that song. Earle is referring to “Mr. Bojangles.” He released it in 1968. But the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made it famous in 1971. Most of y’all can still sing the words penned so beautifully by Jerry Jeff.

“I knew a man “Bojangles”, and he danced for you in worn out shoes. Silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants, the old soft shoe. He jumped so high, he jumped so high, dnd then he’d lightly touch down.

Jerry Jeff Walker (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Earle continued the interview, bringing up that “Mr. Bojangles” also was covered by Bob Dylan and Sammy Davis Jr.

“He was also such a great interpreter of other people’s songs,’ Steve Earle said of Jerry Jeff Walker. “But my main purpose in recording this album was to remind people that he wrote a lot of f—–g great songs.”

We agree. There are so many songs. Earle and the Dukes pulled the best 10. Here’s the Jerry Jeff tracklist:

  • Gettin’ By
  • Gypsy Songman
  • Little Bird
  • I Make Money (Money Don’t Make Me)
  • Mr. Bojangles
  • Hill Country Rain
  • Charlie Dunn
  • My Old Man
  • Wheel
  • Old Road

Jerry Jeff’s most famous song isn’t included on Earle’s album. But Jerry Jeff didn’t write “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.” That was Ray Wylie Hubbard, another Texan. Walker put the song on his 1973 Viva Terlingua album, which he recorded live from the Luckenbach, Texas dance hall. And yes, Luckenbach is the same place as the Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson outlaw masterpiece. Jerry Jeff even gets name-checked in that most perfect song.

Meanwhile, Steve Earle will take his Jerry Jeff Walker songs and his music on the road starting April 23 at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Earle also will help celebrate Willie Nelson’s birthday, May 1. That’ll be a star-studded concert at Willie’s Luck Ranch in Spicewood, outside of Austin.

Here’s a taste of Earle’s tribute to Jerry Jeff. It’s a perfect song for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Grab a cold beer and enjoy!

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