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Review Tue May 31 2011

Review: Justin Townes Earle @ Jay Pritzker Pavilion

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Justin Townes Earle (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

Justin Townes Earle's slender frame looked tiny as he walked out onto the stage last night at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion as part of the Downtown Sounds series running all summer at Millennium Park. However, as soon as the Nashville-born singer/songwriter opened his mouth any vacant space was immediately occupied by Earle's silky Southern croon.

Earle serenaded Millennium Park while its occupants celebrated what truly felt like the first day of summer and the musical backdrop he provided could not have been more appropriate. Joined onstage by two lovely female backup musicians — providing fiddle and acoustic bass sounds — and his acoustic guitar, his set dallied between playful blues tunes and soft, sometimes even somber, lullaby-like melodies including a heartfelt ode to his mother, "Mama's Eyes." His music captured the enthusiasm of the day as we finally caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the never ending tunnel that is the Chicago winter and also the dreamy qualities of lazy summer evenings.

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Bassist for Justin Townes Earle (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

The up and coming blues star played the entire set on the balls of his feet. Even after his self-acknowledgement of his inability to stand still for more than five minutes, this simple fact about Earle was overtly clear. Between his animated musical delivery and Southern charm, the songster had the "ladies and gentlemen" of the audience, as we were addressed on multiple occasions, very pleased. His personality, nimble control of the six-string and powerful vocal presence caused Earle to look right at home on the Pavilion's stage, despite its intimidating size.

As one might expect, the type of crowd that a free concert series like Downtown Sound's draws highlights the diversity of our city. Luckily the themes of Earle's songs are mostly ubiquitous: family, homesickness, lost love and the feelings of annoyance that accompany experiences with bed hogs. Luckily for the family oriented evening, Earle — a man with run-ins with the law, drugs and plenty of girls much like the muse behind "South Georgia Sugar Babe" in his past — kept things clean during last night's show, his white pants and jacket suggesting a bit more purity than he might truly possess.

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Justin Townes Earle (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

Earle capped his set with the title track to latest, 2010's Harlem River Blues, a soulful howl for forgiveness. Sure, a calm night out in the park with family and friends might not the most traditionally exciting option for a guy like Earle, but perhaps he's turning a new leaf. When there's good weather to be enjoyed and good music to be heard, it's hard to argue that last night's show can be deemed anything other than a good night.

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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.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
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Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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