A Tale of Two Concerts
2010 NYC Famed Webster Hall –packed house – sticky ‘spilled beer’ floor –rowdy heckling crowd– snooty upstairs VIP section sipping martini’s – Justin Townes Earle steps on stage and the definition of ‘tall and lean’ makes you catch your breath. I didn’t know God made legs that long! His swagger - refined. He’s ruggedly handsome in an ‘anything but pretty boy’ sort of way. He’s dressed in a suit and tie looking like a 1940’s film star. He breaks into song, settles his boots on the stage (he steps so lightly they appear airborn at times) and gives us a taste of what’s to come. He speaks with a polite and subtle ‘twang’ but the F bomb peppers bone dry, matter of fact - ‘facts’ about his roots, influences, pension for illegal subtances, run-ins with the law. “Everytime I drink too much I breakout in handcuffs” he says. He rips the media a ‘new one’ for their coverage on a recent stint in rehab. Somewhere in the middle of the set he slips off stage, hidden (so he thinks) in the dark. He lights a cigarette under a ‘no smoking’ sign. The smell of tobacco wafting through the air and red tipped glow gives his position away. Nicotine fix out of the way, he comes back and gives the audience everything he has left. The four piece band is supportive but never out front. His bassist twirls the stand-up base and belts out superb vocals.
Personal highlight: My daughter sweet-talked security into letting her mama (me) upstairs to the VIP lounge so she could get ‘face time’ and (of course) her picture taken to add to her collection.
2011 Ringwood Public Library – Whaa??? Located in upstate NJ’s Brown Bear infested wilderness - maximum seating 100 or so plus – neat rows of metal chairs – educated, sober, mostly gray haired audience-
JTE is introduced by the librarian and chair of the event. We are afraid we might get sent to detention if we ‘holler’ so everyone politely ‘golf claps’ as he walks on stage. He immediately sets us at ease by addressing what we all were painfully aware of “ this is the f-ing weirdest gig I’ve ever done”. He must have said to himself “what was I thinking?” Obviously it was booked before “Harlem River” was released and his nearly sold out North American Tour had got him a run on most of the late night talk shows. But he’s not going to cheat us out of a ‘real’ show. He gives us blood, literally. Midway through a hard thump-strum he rips a nail down to the quick. A few explatives later he carries on. A sweet ‘church lady’ in the front row pulls out a band-aid from her pocket book but he never moves to accept. She awkwardly continues waving it at him between songs. He’s in a zone and never catches on. He delights us with raunchy stories of his love for strong drink, and even stronger “chemicals”, psycho women and the love of song. (possibly in that order). After the show, he spends well over 2 hours talking with fans, signing autographs, taking photos and sneaking outside for the occasional smoke. Personal highlight: I made him laugh! Can’t recall what I said but it was caught on camera much to my delight!
Who is JTE
‘Song’ would be the key marker if his DNA were analyzed in a lab. His father is Steve Earles, his namesake Townes Van Zant. His DNA would easily convict him of the ‘crime’ of being an enigma, not a protégé. At 15 he ran off to a rustic cabin deep in the woods of TN with four other song writers and wrote into the night, night after night, preparing himself for the long, hard walk toward ‘making music’ his profession. It’s clearly all ever wanted to do. Long since dead and gone 1920-1950’ ‘pop stars’ as he calls them, do not appear as aparitions hanging out in the musical shadows – they share his mic. Poetry, literature and post punk era music cut deep grooves in all his recodings. What defines his style is it’s authentic not ‘label’ injected, he isn’t a copycat of his obsessions – gospel, blues, old-time country. He’s simply Justin middle name Townes last name Earle.
- 2011 - Justin Townes Earle’s Harlem River Blues was nominated for both Album of the Year and Song of the Year by the Americana Music Association
- Justin won the Best New and Emerging Artist at the 2009 Americana Music Awards
- Midnight at the Movies, was named one of the best records of last year by Amazon
- GQ Magazine named him one of the 25 best dressed men in the world in 2010
- Appeared on HBO’s Treme with his dad, Steve Earle
Slippin and Slidin - Autobiographical – haunting, lonely - bares his soul in his new album Harlem River Blues
Harlem River Blues - Title Track – clap and sing along with a gospel choir. Dance yourself into a watery grave or rewnew your spirit in metaphroic baptism –it’s your choice - your interpretation.
Midnight at the Movies - from his earlier album sweetly sung to a girl whose name he never asked.
Influences - In his own words: From Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springfield: Aside from my usual ‘youtubing’ of his live shows, I generally watch and ‘favorite’ every interview.
Covers and Collaboration
Bruce! Whoo Whoo! (For my friend Karol. She’ll shrug and be unimpressed but she’ll have plenty to say about it later)
Collaboration with the Darling that is Dawn Landes
Where to find JTE
Twitter @JustinTEarle He’s known to tweet trash but it’s a whole lotta fun!
Facebook (someone obviously was assigned to run his page)
facebook.com/justintownesearle (what??? Only 15K likes? Show him some ‘like love’ and tell him we sent ya)
Home page: justintownesearle.com
Cheers and Happy Music Monday!
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