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Justin Townes Earle

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The son of maverick Texas songwriter Steve Earle (and carrying the middle name of his dad's mentor, Townes Van Zandt), Justin Townes Earle shares just a hint of his father's vocal style in his voice, and like the elder Earle, he writes his own songs, but aside from the fact that both Earles fall to the country side of the Mason-Dixon Line, there are probably far more differences in their musical approaches than there are similarities. The younger Earle grew up in Nashville and took up music early, playing in the bluegrass/ragtime combo the Swindlers and the hard-rocking Distributors; he also toured (playing guitar and keyboards) with his father's road band the Dukes, picking up a few of the elder Earle's old bad habits in the process, but like his father, he eventually kicked his drug habit and put his life in order. Developing his own writing and playing style, a hybrid mixing folk and blues with strong early country leanings, Earle self-released the six-song EP Yuma in 2007. The release attracted the attention of Chicago's Bloodshot Records, who signed Earle and put out a full-length project, The Good Life, produced by R.S. Field and recorded at House of David Studios, in 2008. He followed it with Midnight Movies in 2009 and Harlem River Blues in 2010. Earle toured extensively behind this last album and won nearly universal critical acclaim. He followed it up with Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now in the spring of 2012. That same year, Earle 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. ~ Steve Leggett

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January 4, 1982 in Nashville, TN

Years Active:

'00s, '10s