Oh man! I heard a rumour a month or so ago ……. and now here it is; Steve Sings Justin! Me? I’ve been a fan of Steve Earle’s ever since Copperhead Road; but….. and those who know me will confirm it; I’m actually more a fan of Justin Townes Earle; whose songs have ‘touched me’ in so many ways, over the years; few more so than Harlem River Blues.
Here’s what else you need to know ……. On the forthcoming album,J.T., Steve Earle & The Dukes pay tribute to Steve’s late son, Justin Townes Earle (J.T.), who passed away on August 20, 2020 in Nashville. The album will be released digitally on what would have been Justin’s 39th birthday, January 4, 2021, CD and vinyl formats will release March 19, 2021.
The first track, “Harlem River Blues” is available to stream today. The poignant song is one of Justin’s best-known compositions and took Song of the Year honors at the 2011 Americana Music Awards ceremony following Justin’s win in the Emerging Artist of the Year category in 2009.
100% of the artist advances and royalties from J.T. will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle. While sombre in parts, the album is ultimately a rousing celebration of a life lived with passion and purpose.
A Beautifully Sensitive Epitaph To a Modern Musical Genius.
If you’re reading this I doubt I need to tell you who or what Willard Grant Conspiracy are; or more pertinently ‘were’. But if you are just being inquisitive,they were an ensemble nay, multitude of musicians who gathered around the ever evolving singer-songwriter Robert Fisher, who sadly died on February 12th 2017, and the core of these songs and interludes were written and demoed in the previous 12 months. Now that the rawness of his passing has gone, lone time friend David Michael Curry has re-evaluated the work and gone about creating this final testament to Robert Neil Fisher and Willard Grant Conspiracy. As a side-bar, Fisher lost me off many years ago, leaving me in his slipstream as he blazed a trail somewhere between genius and madness, (in my humble opinion). So; what to make of this final release? As opening track Hideous Beast growled it’s way from the speakers my eyebrows raised so high they nearly touched the back of my neck. Now, with the benefit of hindsight I can’t think of a better way to attract the listener’s attention, but long concealed memories of trying to listen to the crazy and experimental work from Zappa and Beefheart in my teenage bedroom sprung to mind; but hey….it only lasts just shy of two minutes; so no real trauma was done. Mercifully the second song, Do No Harm is more like the Lo-Fi, shoe-gazing introspection that I adored so many years ago, as are several others here that fit that marvelous description too…….especially the dark and almost Gothic I Could Not and the single that trailed the album release, Untethered with its slight Country underscore and Johnny Cash Americana sensitivity. ‘Sensitivity’ is actually a good word to describe the overall ‘feeling’ on this album; Robert always was a canny song-writer; and I know it’s presumptive of me, but as these songs were written after his diagnosis, I think it’s fair to imagine him mining both his heart and Soul when writing and even ‘constructing’ the brittle and beautiful Let The Storm Be Your Pilot, and the breathtaking Share The Load, which will surely reduce many who hear it to tears. Each track here has it’s very own worth; which means choosing a Favourite Track from the wonderfully eclectic mix is difficult to the extreme; but the bleak and brooding Love You Apart certainly bares repeated listening when taken out of context; as does Chasing Rabbits and Margaret on the Porch too; but I’m probably going for the relatively simple Saturday With Jane as the RMHQ Favourite Track, possibly because Robert sounds uncannily like Lou Reed on one of the few songs that would fit into a Radio playlist.
Being the Americana Renaissance Man he was; it’s no real surprise to find two instrumentals here; the quirkilly titled Two Step borders on being Chamber music; when the title suggests something else completely, such is Fisher’s eccentric sense of humour. The other instrumental is Trail’s End, which brings everything to another Zappaesque conclusion, as it meanders and turns left,right and left again before ending as a wild crescendo …….which just may be the perfect epitaph for Robert Neil Fisher Esq. There’s a lot going on here; and an awful lot to like, especially when it’s put into the context of being the last writings and recordings of a man who history will show to be something of a Musical Genius.