Harlem River Blues by Justin Townes Earle on Apple Music

11 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Justin Townes Earle has quite a legacy to live up to. His father is Steve Earle and he was named in part after the late, great legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt. With those influences of artistic purity looking over his shoulder, Earle sticks to roots music where a Hammond B-3 sounds perfectly at home. “Move Over Mama” is the perfect example of Earle’s sincerity towards old forms. It’s a rockabilly number that sounds like it could’ve been recorded in the 1950s with its cloudy reverb and slapping acoustic bass. “Workin’ for the MTA” sounds like an old country music mountain ballad. “Wanderin’” is the Woody Guthrie-like tune Bob Dylan chased as a young man. “Slippin’ and Slidin’” adds some gritty guitar and R&B horns to Earle’s high lonesome vocals. “Christchurch Woman” is a gripping love song that could’ve been written and performed by his father. “Learning to Cry” sounds like a great tune for Roy Orbison to sing. As it stands, they’re all great tunes from a promising young talent who, unlike many flavors of the month, should be with us for years to come.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Justin Townes Earle has quite a legacy to live up to. His father is Steve Earle and he was named in part after the late, great legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt. With those influences of artistic purity looking over his shoulder, Earle sticks to roots music where a Hammond B-3 sounds perfectly at home. “Move Over Mama” is the perfect example of Earle’s sincerity towards old forms. It’s a rockabilly number that sounds like it could’ve been recorded in the 1950s with its cloudy reverb and slapping acoustic bass. “Workin’ for the MTA” sounds like an old country music mountain ballad. “Wanderin’” is the Woody Guthrie-like tune Bob Dylan chased as a young man. “Slippin’ and Slidin’” adds some gritty guitar and R&B horns to Earle’s high lonesome vocals. “Christchurch Woman” is a gripping love song that could’ve been written and performed by his father. “Learning to Cry” sounds like a great tune for Roy Orbison to sing. As it stands, they’re all great tunes from a promising young talent who, unlike many flavors of the month, should be with us for years to come.

TITLE TIME
2:48
3:04
2:00
3:48
2:38
2:58
4:11
2:41
2:16
4:27
0:31

About Justin Townes Earle

In some respects, Justin Townes Earle seemed destined from birth to be a musician -- his father, Steve Earle, is one of America's most acclaimed singer/songwriters, and he was named in part for Townes Van Zandt, a close friend to Earle and an equally legendary tunesmith. But Justin also grew up learning the downside of the musician's life, and came up against some of the same demons that haunted his father. Born in 1982, Justin Townes Earle didn't see much of his dad through most of his childhood; after the release of his first album in 1986, Steve was often on the road, and a serious drug habit sidelined him through much of the early '90s. Despite it all, Justin developed an appetite for music, and in his teens began playing and singing with two different Nashville groups, a rock band called the Distributors and a bluegrass-influenced acoustic combo, the Swindlers.

Justin also spent some time as a member of his father's touring band the Dukes, and sang one of his own songs, "The Time You Waste," on Steve's 2003 live album Just an American Boy. But Justin was fired from the Dukes after a dangerous appetite for drugs began interfering with his performances, and Justin told a Los Angeles Times reporter that he suffered his fifth major drug overdose, one that put him in the hospital for several days, when he was only 21. But that misadventure put Justin on the road to recovery, and once clean and sober he began putting a new focus on his music and songwriting. In 2007, Justin unveiled a critically acclaimed EP, Yuma, on his own J-Trane Music label, and later that year he signed with the respected "insurgent country" label Bloodshot, which released his debut album, The Good Life, on March 25, 2008. He followed it with Midnight at the Movies in 2009 and Harlem River Blues in 2010.

While touring in support of Harlem River Blues, Earle was involved in an altercation with a club owner after a show in Indianapolis, Indiana, which led to a brief stay in jail and a return to rehab for alcohol issues. Since then, Earle has reportedly been clean and sober, and continued to record and tour steadily. In 2012, Earle released the album Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, and dipped his toes into production, working behind the board on Unfinished Business, an album by pioneering rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson. After Earle's contract with Bloodshot had run its course, he signed a deal with Communion Records, a U.K. label owned in part by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons, but the deal soon turned into a war of words between Earle and the label's A&R staff, with Earle frequently posting angry messages on Twitter about his dealings with the company. In 2014, Earle finally re-emerged with a new album, Single Mothers, which was released by the American independent label Vagrant Records. Single Mothers was recorded in tandem with a companion album, Absent Fathers, but rather than release them together, Earle decided the two sets of songs would be more powerful as separate works, and Absent Fathers arrived in January 2015. In 2017, Earle released the album Kids in the Street, his first for the respected independent label New West Records. He supported the release with a concert tour in tandem with the celebrated Canadian group the Sadies, who served as his opening act as well as his backing band. ~ Mark Deming

  • ORIGIN
    Nashville, TN
  • BORN
    Jan 4, 1982

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