Americana Music Awards / Justin Townes Earle / Reviews / Steve Earle / Townes Van Zandt

AMA Album of the year nominee – Justin Townes Earle “Harlem River Blues”

Justin Townes Earle
Harlem River Blues

A few months back I saw Justin Townes Earle perform at the Autry museum in Los Angeles and it was by far the best show I’ve seen this year.  Out of all the young Americana songwriters today, there is no one whose music excites me as much as JTE and there is no performer with his coolness and intensity.

With a namesake like Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle as his father, JTE  isn’t just a substitute, he is a great musician in his own right.

His 2010 release, Harlem River Blues proves that wherever he goes, he brings his country with him and at the young age of 29, his songs possess wisdom and experience far beyond his years.

Although Earle is a Nashville native, there is nothing Nashville about his sound.  His style as a songwriter is very Texas.  In appearance and sound, he is a modern cross between Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt. His gift seems to be in writing songs that tell stories about a modern America with both a traditional feel and fresh perspective.

The landscape of Harlem River Blues is New York City, yet there is nothing urban about the tone.  In “Workin for the MTA,” Earle cleverly sings about working in the NYC Subway, “this ain’t my daddy’s train,” making it a clever modern take on traditional train songs.  On a more personal level, Earle ( who like his father has struggled with addiction for half of his life) sings about his battle with drugs in the emotionally driven and honest, “Slippin and Slidin.”

The title track (which is nominated for the AMA song of the year) starts the album out with a solid momentum that through shifts in style and genre, makes for what should be worthy of the Album of the Year award.

For more information on Justin Townes Earle, visit:

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  1. Pingback: Sometimes I’d rather be wrong: An AMA Op-Ed

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