Monday, September 20, 2010

Show review: Justin Townes Earle at Reckless Records, 9/18

Posted by Bobby

Justin Townes Earle was in Chicago Saturday to play Lincoln Hall on the heels of his new record, Harlem River Blues, released earlier this month on Bloodshot Records. Beforehand, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter stopped by Reckless Records on Broadway to earnestly remind the 50 or so people in the store of the magical silence that happens when someone sings and plays really, really good songs, really, really well.

After a few enigmatic references to the previous evening's trip to Jail in Indianapolis, a story of some small consequence I'm sure, Justin began to sing and play songs off his new album. No one shuffled, sneezed, or texted. Very quickly the folks who had gathered became aware of and appreciated what they were seeing. And what they were seeing, as I would define it, is one of the best young songwriters in America today, confidently standing behind, or in front of, or on top of - depending on how you look at it - his songs.

I first learned of Justin and his famous folk lineage (look it up) from Chicago folk artist Mark Minelli, and have since listened to his previous releases with increasing frequency. Upon hearing the songs on this new album, I have to consider it for my album of the year. The title track is a raucous gospel rally of a man on the way to the dirty water enraptured by the thought of not having to deal with life's shit anymore. It is as exciting as it is infectious, like you might consider following him right in. The phenomenal "Slippin' and Slidin'" is as much Motown as it is country, and achingly beautiful in both respects. He also played a track off the album called "Rogers Park," saying, "I wrote this next song when I was 18, three days after leaving Chicago because it defeated me." I personally lived in Rogers Park for six years and it got the best of me sometimes, too. As he played, I swore I had heard the tune already, roaming those lonely beach end streets.

Do yourself a favor. Get this album.

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