Justin Townes Earle
Harlem River Blues
Bloodshot Records BS178
Son of Steve comes of age.
Justin’s last album, 2009’s MIDNIGHT AT THE MOVIES brought him a lot of plaudits from the music press around the World; although I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, but on HARLEM RIVER BLUES the Son of Steve finally steps out of the shadows of his Superstar father with an album choc full of cracking songs and tunes.
Opening and title track Harlem River Blues has annoyed the life out of me for weeks now as I can’t get the bloomin’ tune out of my head! Justin treats us to a jolly Gospel romp over a swirling electric piano and snappy drum accompaniment and will have listeners singing along with gusto until the penny finally drops and you realise what the song is actually about.
I won’t spoil it for you but I’m still grinning from ear to ear thinking about it.
There are quite a number of different musical styles throughout HARLEM RIVER BLUES and for once the mixture manages to add to the groove and move the tempo up and down with the greatest of ease with nothing sticking out like a sore thumb. Obviously there are folk songs littered throughout – One More Night in Brooklyn, Wandering (with some breathtaking harmonica playing) and my own personal favourite; the bittersweet Learning to Cry as well as some stomping Roots-Rock on Move Over Mama which sounds like an old Billy Swan song and Working for the MTA and even the odd snatch of Bluegrass hidden here and there; but not enough to offend.
Justin’s voice and guitar playing has matured now along with his musical arrangements giving him a signature that he’s been building towards for years now. Justin Townes-Earle is Justin Townes- Earle; so any comparison with other Americana singer-songwriters, old or young is futile.
This album has a timeless grace to it and is a massive leap forward for Justin; so fingers crossed it will go on to make him a huge success around the World.
originally published in Maverick magazine UK www.maverick-country.com