Justin Townes Earle, Powerstation, 26 March 2011

Justin Townes Earle

Justin Townes Earle has a reputation…as a hard-drinking, drug-taking troublemaker (he spent a short time in jail last year) and as an incisive, heartfelt songwriter with an instinctive feel for American folk, blues and country music (his opening slot at last year’s Wilco concert at the Civic left many folks impressed).

Of course the same could be said for Justin’s dad, Steve Earle, and Justin’s family’s presence certainly made itself known as he dedicated a the second song of the night (They Killed John Henry) to his grandfather and three songs later performed Mama’s Eyes, an almost embarrassingly intimate tune about his parents that left the small, but enthusiastic audience absolutely silent.

The skinny, bespeckled singer also called upon musical heroes past and present (Woody Guthrie, Lightning Hopkins, Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements) during his 20-song set, but it was Guthrie’s influence that seems to have had the biggest influence on Earle. Both are consummate storytellers, drawing on real life characters and events and turning them into timeless songs.

He also dedicated his Christchurch Woman to the people of that earthquake-stricken city.

Earle told the audience about “a girl from Georgia, a country bitch” in South Georgia Sugar Babe, his lost days in New York in One More Night In Brooklyn and his love of “young ladies and fried chicken” in Ain’t Waitin’.

Earle was accompanied on stage by fiddle player Josh Hedley. Together, the two of them conjured up a mesmerizing blend of folk-blues and country-rock. Earle is an accomplished, if economical guitarist and Hedley soars on the fiddle.

Earle acknowledged his wild ways. “I’m not very good at taking care of myself. I like cocaine a lot, I also like to drink a lot”, he candidly admitted before singing Slippin’ And Slidin’ from his latest album, Harlem River Blues. After hearing this, the audience went quiet, not knowing whether to laugh or call rehab. And there was a feeling of potential trouble in the air. When Justin came back for an encore he addressed someone in the audience with “don’t tell me what to do”, before ending the evening with two well-chosen covers, Springsteen’s Racing In The Street and The Replacements’ Can’t Hardly Wait.

It seems clear the Justin Townes Earle’s troubles may not be completely behind him. But, in the meantime, he sure puts on a fine show.

Click here to listen to Justin perform Ain’t Waitin’:

Here’s Justin’s Set List:

  1. Move Over Mama
  2. They Killed John Henry
  3. I Don’t Know
  4. Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving
  5. Mama’s Eyes
  6. One Night In Brooklyn
  7. Ain’t Waitin’
  8. Christchurch Woman
  9. Wanderin’
  10. Slippin’ And Slidin’
  11. I Been Burnin’ Bad Gasoline
  12. South Georgia Sugar Babe
  13. Someday I’ll Be Forgiven
  14. Halfway To Jackson
  15. Midnight At The Movies
  16. I’m Learning To Cry
  17. Walk Out
  18. Harlem River Blues
  19. Racing In The Street
  20. Can’t Hardly Wait