Steve Earle’s Iconic Debut, “Guitar Town” Gets 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition October 14

A protégé of legendary songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, multi Grammy award-winning musician, actor, author, playwright and activist, Steve Earle was an ambitious Texas songwriter struggling to get his break when now legendary MCA A&R head Tony Brown signed the recalcitrant rocker. Guitar Town, Earle’s debut album, was shocking in its blue collar ethos, the resonant twang of the guitars and that raw-throated wail of a 31-year-old who refused to stand down. If mainstream country music was on the verge of what Earle would call “the Great Credibility Scare of the ‘80s,” Guitar Town was the powder keg that would blow the whole bloated, stagnant genre up.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Earle’s iconic Guitar Town, MCA Nashville/UMe will release a deluxe edition of the album on CD and digital on October 14 via Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company. The two-disc set will feature the classic album remastered from the original tapes by Robert Vosgien along with a previously unreleased 19-song live show recorded on the Guitar Town tour at the Park West in Chicago in 1986 and expanded liner notes. Pre-order and stream Guitar Town.

The concert will also be available on its own as a double LP on 180-gram vinyl exclusively at UDiscover. A remastered vinyl edition of Guitar Town, cut for vinyl by Ron McMaster at Capitol Mastering and also remastered by Vosgien, was released in May along with Earle’s other MCA studio releases: Exit 0, Copperhead Road and The Hard Way.

Earle will be playing Guitar Town in its entirety at a handful of U.S. shows as well as on an extensive 1–date Canadian tour this fall. This past Thursday, ahead of his annual performance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, Earle and his band The Dukes tore through the album’s 10 cuts to a rapturous crowd at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. This month, Earle will join Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and The Milk Carton Kids for the Lampedusa Concerts for Refugees tour, which includes one Canadian date, at Toronto’s Massey Hall, October 14. The tour is intended to raise awareness of the unprecedented worldwide refugee crisis with funds raised by Lampedusa going to support educational programs for refugees around the world.

After nearly a decade kicking around Nashville, playing bass in Guy Clark’s band and working at a publishing house as a staff songwriter with some mid-level chart success, Earle unexpectedly shook up the industry and launched his career when he combined country heart and twang with hard-edged rock n’ roll and created something startling new on Guitar Town. When released on March 5. 1986, the album produced by Emory Gordy, Jr. and Tony Brown was originally met with confusion from radio programmers who didn’t know where to place it, deriding it as too rock for country and too country for rock.

Eventually though, the album, which was inspired by seeing Bruce Springsteen on his Born To Run tour, found its way with the support of the music press and a wide swath of fans – ranging from honky-tonkers and metalheads to punk kids, hipsters and hippies – who didn’t quite know what to make of it, but knew the universal subjects of small-town aspirations, the demise of the American dream, hard living and songs about life on the road away from one’s family spoke to them. Testament to his widespread appeal, Earle shared bills with George Jones and Dwight Yoakam one night and The Replacements the next.

Guitar Town went on to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and garnered two GRAMMY® Award nominations for Earle – Best Male Country Vocalist and Best Country Song for the album’s title track. Earle, who several months before had been slogging away trying to get his break, received comparisons to such celebrated songwriters as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, and Tom Petty as the album became one of the most acclaimed of the ‘80s. It topped Rolling Stone’s Critic’s Poll for Country Album Of The Year and later was included in both the magazine’s 100 Best Albums Of The Eighties and their esteemed 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time lists. In their rave review, the Los Angeles Times hailed it as “one of the most endearing and exciting American debuts” in recent years, adding, “an album of this quality in a more mainstream country style would be hailed as the discovery of the year in country music.” The record, which also spawned the No. 8 Country Single, “Goodbye’s All We Got Left” as well as “Hillbilly Highway” and “Someday” is certified platinum in Canada and gold in the U.S.

Now widely known as the record that paved the way for alternative country and which defines the genre, Guitar Town’s influence continues thirty years after its release. As Paste wrote earlier this year: “The little blast of rock and roll populism that Guitar Town pushed into the country music lexicon continues to reverberate through the writing of Chris Stapleton, Eric Church and just about every artist who has carried the ‘alternative country’ mantle over the last 20 years. The album that managed to overcome long odds saved its biggest surprise for last: it sounds just as good—and just as relevant—now as it did the day it was released.”

Recorded at the Park West in Chicago in 1986 while on tour in support of Guitar Town, the live album is a new unearthed treasure that brims with the palpable energy and excitement that can only come from a band feeling on top of the world as its music connects with a fervent crowd. The high-quality sounding recording captures a watershed night as Earle realizes the dream he’s had since moving to Nashville at 19 has finally came true. Earle and his band – Bucky Baxter and Michael McAdam on guitars, Reno Kling on bass, Ken Moore on keyboards and Harry Stinson on drums – barrel through 19 songs including the entirety of Guitar Town, several tracks from the then-unreleased sophomore album, Exit 0, and a cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper.” Nearly out of songs with an insatiable audience screaming for one more, Earle takes the stage for the third encore of the night with just an acoustic guitar for “No. 29.” As the crowd cheers wildly, Earle exclaims, “This has been the thrill of my life and that’s no shit.” It’s a poignant snapshot of an artist being genuinely overwhelmed that he had finally got what he was seeking, and just a sneak peek at what was to come.

STEVE EARLE – GUITAR TOWN 30TH ANNIVERSARY
DISC ONE – ORIGINAL ALBUM
Guitar Town
Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left
Hillbilly Highway
Good Ol’ Boy (Gettin’ Tough)
My Old Friend The Blues
Someday
Think It Over
Fearless Heart
Little Rock ‘N’ Roller
Down The Road

DISC TWO – LIVE AT PARK WEST, CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 15, 1986
Guitar Town
Sweet Little ‘66
Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left To Say
Hillbilly Highway
My Old Friend The Blues
Good Ol’ Boy (Getting’ Tough)
Someday
Think It Over
Little Rock ‘N’ Roller
State Trooper
The Week Of Living Dangerously
Angry Young Man
Nowhere Road
Fearless Heart
I Love You Too Much
San Antonio Girl
The Devil’s Right Hand
Down The Road
No. 29

STEVE EARLE – LIVE AT PARK WEST, CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 15, 1986
VINYL EDITION
SIDE A
Guitar Town
Sweet Little ‘66
Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left To Say
Hillbilly Highway
My Old Friend The Blues

SIDE B
Good Ol’ Boy (Getting’ Tough)
Someday
Think It Over
Little Rock ‘N’ Roller

SIDE C
State Trooper
The Week Of Living Dangerously
Angry Young Man
Nowhere Road
Fearless Heart

SIDE D
I Love You Too Much
San Antonio Girl
The Devil’s Right Hand
Down The Road
No. 29

STEVE EARLE CANADIAN TOUR DATES
October 14 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall (Lampedusa: Concerts For Refugees w/ Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Milk Carton Kids, and special guest Robert Plant)
November 2 – Calgary, AB @ Grey Eagle Resort & Casino
November 3 – Regina, SK @ Casino Regina-Show Lounge
November 4 – Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings Theatre
November 8 – Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Center Theatre
November 10 – St. Johns, NL @ Holy Heart Theatre
November 11 – St. Johns, NL @ Holy Heart Theatre
November 13 – Halifax, NS @ Casino Nova Scotia
November 14 – Halifax, NS @ Casino Nova Scotia
November 16 – Kingston, ON @ The Ale House
November 17 – London, ON @ London Music Hall
November 18 – Niagara Falls, ON @ Scotia Bank Convention Center