Steve Earle, whose new album of Townes Van Zandt songs arrives in stores next week, is set to hit the road later this month.

After a string of radio gigs and in-store appearances at local record shops - including an appearance on the Tavis Smiley Show on May 13 - Earle will embark on a proper tour of the East Coast and Midwest beginning May 28 in Portsmouth, NH. A West Coast run is being planned for the fall. Full tour details can be found at steveearle.com.

Van Zandt, who died in 1997, never became famous as a performer. But other singers had hits with his compositions—most famously, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded a version of his outlaw ballad, "Pancho and Lefty," that became a No. 1 country hit in 1983—and his own versions hold up well enough that Fat Possum recently reissued some of his albums.

Earle honors Van Zandt's influence on "Townes," which comes out May 12 on New West Records, by playing his songs in the same stark style they were originally recorded.

Steve Earle talks about "Townes" and more backstage at the Madison Square Garden Pete Seeger birthday concert on May 3.

"Townes was, literally, my mentor," says Earle, who picked up Van Zandt's talent for songwriting and his propensity for hard living. "This may be the best record I've ever done," he adds. "And that hurts my feelings because I'm a singer/songwriter."

In addition to touring and promoting "Townes," Earle told Billboard.com that he's writing a one-man play about the life and music of folk music legend Pete Seeger entitled "Dangerous Songs." "It's sort of like (Eric Bogosian's) 'Talk Radio,' one performer and mixed media," he said.