Justin Townes Earle & The Sadies – Tuning Fork October 11, 2017


It just keeps getting better and better! Toronto band The Sadies rocked the house, then proceeded to back up Justin Townes Earle, making for one hell of a Wednesday night at The Tuning Fork.

I’m ashamed to say that I’m not as familiar with The Sadies as I should be. That’s all going to change after seeing them perform at the fourth show of this year’s Southern Fork Americana Festival.

The Canadian quartet took the stage at 8pm , with guitar-slinging brothers Dallas and Travis Good resplendent in quasi-Nudie suits. Meanwhile Sean Dean stood beside his stand-up bass and drummer Mike Belitsky sat at his kit ready to rock.

And rock they did, with their opening number sounding like a glorious early Byrds tune, but played by The Standells.

Before the audience could catch its collective breath, they launched into a twangy surf-rock instrumental.

Throughout their too-brief 45 minute set, the band mixed garage band, surf, country, blues, 50’s rockabilly as if it all came from the same source…which, of course, it does.

Fortunately Justin Townes Earle was wise enough to employ The Sadies as his backing band, much to the appreciation of the crowd. Additionally, he brought along guitarist/pedal steel player Paul Niehaus to present a band he was truly proud of. In fact, at one point during the show Earle compared himself to his father…”He writes better than me, but my band will whip his band’s ass!”

Earle and crew began with a couple of tunes from the newest album, Kids In The Street. Then it was a trip through his impressive catalogue, with plenty of stories along the way.

Those who have followed the younger Earle’s career, and perhaps seen him in the past, know that he has been through a lot, and that sometimes these issues can manifest themselves on stage.

At this point, I’m happy to report, that Justin Townes Earle looks and sounds the best he has ever been. He seems to be in a very good place emotionally and this came through in last night’s performance.

When someone shouted out a request to hear Mama’s Eyes, during his solo acoustic spot, Justin joked, “”don’t start telling me what to do”, then went ahead and played the song anyway…in the past, that exchange may not have been so good-natured.

In addition to his own fine songs, Earle threw in a cover of Paul Simon’s Graceland, a song he noted had been “disrespected” by some of his generation.

He also spoke movingly about the heroin epidemic sweeping the US at the moment, urging compassion instead of judgement for the junkies, then playing White Gardenias, his tribute to Billie Holiday, who, he speculated, “wasn’t meant for this world”.

Paul Niehous  played some fine pedal steel during the country ballad What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome, then they all rocked out with Short Hair Woman to end the set.

Earle and company returned to play Faded Valentine and Harlem River Blues to close out another incredibly satisfying night at The Tuning Fork.

If you missed it, they are doing again tonight!

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Justin Townes Earle set list:

  1. Champagne Corolla
  2. Maybe A Moment
  3. One More Night In Brooklyn
  4. What’s She Crying For
  5. Move Over Mama
  6. Black Eyed Suzy
  7. Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
  8. 15-25
  9. They Killed John Henry
  10. Mama’s Eyes
  11. Graceland
  12. Christchurch Woman
  13. Trouble Is
  14. Rogers Park
  15. Ain’t Waitin’
  16. White Gardenias
  17. What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome
  18. Short Hair Woman
  19. Faded Valentine
  20. Harlem River Blues