Justin Townes Earle’s new LP, Kids in the Street, approaches blues influences with equal parts reverence for its history and a playfulness that guarantees its relevance in the future. So it’s not surprising to hear Earle confess the unconventional way he came to one of his most inspirational sources, Lead Belly: via Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York, a live album that includes a cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” popularized by the Louisiana bluesman the 1940s.
It’s a set of strange bedfellows that Earle recently discussed with another strange bedfellow – his own father, Steve Earle – on the elder’s SiriusXM Outlaw Country show Hardcore Troubadour Radio, apparently reconciled after years of turmoil. (Watch the clip above, along with an acoustic performance of the Memphis boogie car-song pastiche “Champagne Corolla” below.) The chat marks the first radio interview the father and son have ever done together.
“You were exposed to that stuff and you heard it all the time, but you didn’t think it was cool until you saw Kurt Cobain do ‘In the Pines,'” recalls Steve Earle in the video, referring to the song by one of its multiple names. His son agrees. “The Unplugged record by Nirvana was monumental in my life as a musician,” says Justin Townes Earle. The singer-songwriter draws both the punk spirit and blues tradition into songs like “Short Haired Women” off Kids in the Street, which gets a clean perspective thanks to production from Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis.
“He was a genuinely great songwriter,” adds Steve Earle, about Cobain. “Nirvana was Nirvana because of the songs.”
Kids in the Street is due May 26th via New West. The full interview between the Earles airs Saturday, May 20th, at 9:00 p.m./ET on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country channel, with repeat airings set for May 21st through 24th.