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Transmission
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Album Wed Sep 15 2010

Justin Townes Earle: Big City With a Country Heart

jte_hrb_cvr.jpg

Justin Townes Earle is part of music history (as his dad is the illustrious Steve Earle) but that relationship does not define him. He's also a totally amazing part of alt-country present. Originally from Nashville, JTE spent a few years in Chicago (where he was signed to Bloodshot Records) playing the circuit of small venues and putting in his time. Now he lives in New York City (New York City?) where his latest album, Harlem River Blues, gains a cinematic quality of the cowboy lost in the concrete jungle. Songs like "Learning to Cry," "Harlem River Blues" and "Slippin' and Slidin'" are tearful and steeped in a kind of work-a-day depression one feels when all around you is grey, and black asphalt, and more grey, but you have to get up anyway. Even the tune "Rogers Park" — with its nod back in time to Earle's years in Chicago, and our bleak months of winter — has a mind to dwell just for a moment in the dark past even though "this town's dead tonight, I got no place to be" speaks not only to a time gone by, but also the desolation of city streets during a snowstorm. But then there's the wink from "One More Night In Brooklyn" where, well, we might as well make the best of it, and be with someone special. And there's the modern twist on the conventional trainman song "Working for the MTA" (which makes me harken back to the Kingston Trio's folk tune "The M.T.A. Song"). Earle hits his stride with boogie woogie in "Move Over Mama" and the sweet song "Wanderin'" which make you want to really cut a rug. But he's really about storytelling, and giving audiences songs they can sing along to whether they're behind the wheel of their Chevy, or waiting for a train far below the streetscape. Everyone has to find a reason to get up and get going in the morning — even when it's dark and grey outside. Believe it or not, this album makes me want to just keep hitting "repeat" it's so true to life. The rollercoaster of the story is just another day in the big city. Cowboy or no, I'm sure you can relate.

[mp3] Justin Townes Earle: "Harlem River Blues" from Harlem River Blues

Justin Townes Earle plays Lincoln Hall on Saturday, September 18th. Jessica Lea Mayfield opens. Music starts at 10pm. Tickets are $13 (adv) $15 (door). Lincoln Hall is located at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-525-2501.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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