“This one goes out to the great Woody Guthrie, wherever he may be,” said Justin Townes Earle, tuning up for Guthrie’s classic, “I Don’t Know.” It was a freezing night sometime in 2009, and Cole Louison sat with Alex French and the now-vanished Sarah Goldstein at a round table way back of the 11th Street Bar in the East Village. An hour before, Justin had Tweeted “will go on around 10” with no further details, and now the place was packed. Justin lived next door and had been in New York a year, but was already the hottest ticket in town. That summer he’d opened for Gillian Welch, but it was his solo shows that everyone wanted to see. He picked notes while he played cords and he sung and screamed and stomped out originals along with mastered classics by Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bruce Springsteen and Leadbelly. And Woody Guthrie. “If you’re a song writer that doesn’t have a very, very good understanding of Woody Guthrie, then you need to quit writing songs,” he told an interviewer. An he did. Justin not only embodied the roaming and sometimes viciously-independent spirit of Guthrie, but proved himself a student of the songs that inspired him, so much so that after two successful albums and a move to SoHo he’s returning to his roots for a performance titled “In the Spirit of Woody Guthrie” at Pace University this weekend. He’ll play inspired originals and Woody covers with guests Joe Pug, the Low Anthem, and others. Don’t miss it.