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Steve Earle & The Dukes|J.T.

J.T.

Steve Earle & The Dukes

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Steve Earle has made something of a sideline out of paying homage to songwriters who meant a great deal to him on the occasion of their death. He honored his friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt on 2009's Townes, and did the same for fellow Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark on 2019's Guy. He continues this tradition with 2021's J.T., though the tenor of the piece is significantly different -- the J.T. in question was Justin Townes Earle, Steve's son, who died in August 2020 of an accidental overdose after years of struggling with addiction and recovery. Justin released eight albums during his lifetime, and though plenty of celebrity progeny are happy to trade on the good will of their parent's body of work, he seemed determined to succeed or fail on his own merits, with his own style. There was an introspective tone and a lack of swagger that separated his work from his dad's, and his plaintive mood stood in contrast with the grit of Steve's best-known albums. Justin had a talent that rivaled that of his father, but his lyrical voice lacked the elder Earle's etched-in-stone confidence, and he made that a virtue, baring his soul with a modesty and emotional truth that was disarming and effective. While it may not have been what he had in mind, on J.T. Steve Earle injects a good portion of his own personality into these songs. In this context, it's much clearer what the son learned from his father than in his own interpretations of these tunes. Steve and his band the Dukes fill out the often minimal arrangements of Justin's original recordings, and the acoustic blues at the root of Justin's music runs parallel with the country leanings of Earle's group, whose fiddles and slide guitars liven up even the more somber tunes. That said, on J.T. Justin's songs sound perfectly natural coming from Steve's voice; even if he changes the spirit and tone of the originals (putting a bit more rock in "Maria," amping up the dread of "The Saint of Lost Causes," and making the casual fatalism of "Harlem River Blues" sound almost joyous), these stories come from a place and a view of the world that he clearly recognizes. Without paternal arrogance, Steve knows just how talented his son was, and his performances show him doing his very best to make that clear. The final song, "Last Words," is the only tune Steve wrote for this album, and it's far simpler and more immediate than the songs that precede it. It's not maudlin, but it's shot through with a very real sadness that makes room for the puzzlement and anger that any father who has had to bury his own child must feel. If the final track is an act of public mourning, the rest of J.T. is the loving and appreciative celebration Justin Townes Earle's music deserves.
© Mark Deming /TiVo

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J.T.

Steve Earle & The Dukes

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1
I Don't Care
00:01:54

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

2
Ain't Glad I'm Leaving
00:02:52

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

3
Maria
00:02:46

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

4
Far Away in Another Town
00:03:06

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Scotty Melton, Composer - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher - Scotty Melton Music, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC / Scotty Melton Music (

5
They Killed John Henry
00:02:34

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

6
Turn Out My Lights
00:02:35

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Scotty Melton, Composer - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher - Scotty Melton Music, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC / Scotty Melton Music (

7
Lone Pine Hill
00:02:43

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

8
Champagne Corolla
00:03:35

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

9
The Saint of Lost Causes
00:05:01

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) / All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

10
Harlem River Blues
00:03:10

Justin Townes Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 1989 Music (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

11
Last Words
00:04:21

Steve Earle, Composer - Steve Earle & The Dukes, MainArtist - Exile on Jones Street Music (ASCAP) and WC Music Corp. (ASCAP) / All rights administered by WC, MusicPublisher

2020 New West Record, LLC 2020 Exile on Jones Street Music (ASCAP) and WC Music Corp. (ASCAP) / All rights administered by WC

Descripción del álbum

Steve Earle has made something of a sideline out of paying homage to songwriters who meant a great deal to him on the occasion of their death. He honored his friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt on 2009's Townes, and did the same for fellow Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark on 2019's Guy. He continues this tradition with 2021's J.T., though the tenor of the piece is significantly different -- the J.T. in question was Justin Townes Earle, Steve's son, who died in August 2020 of an accidental overdose after years of struggling with addiction and recovery. Justin released eight albums during his lifetime, and though plenty of celebrity progeny are happy to trade on the good will of their parent's body of work, he seemed determined to succeed or fail on his own merits, with his own style. There was an introspective tone and a lack of swagger that separated his work from his dad's, and his plaintive mood stood in contrast with the grit of Steve's best-known albums. Justin had a talent that rivaled that of his father, but his lyrical voice lacked the elder Earle's etched-in-stone confidence, and he made that a virtue, baring his soul with a modesty and emotional truth that was disarming and effective. While it may not have been what he had in mind, on J.T. Steve Earle injects a good portion of his own personality into these songs. In this context, it's much clearer what the son learned from his father than in his own interpretations of these tunes. Steve and his band the Dukes fill out the often minimal arrangements of Justin's original recordings, and the acoustic blues at the root of Justin's music runs parallel with the country leanings of Earle's group, whose fiddles and slide guitars liven up even the more somber tunes. That said, on J.T. Justin's songs sound perfectly natural coming from Steve's voice; even if he changes the spirit and tone of the originals (putting a bit more rock in "Maria," amping up the dread of "The Saint of Lost Causes," and making the casual fatalism of "Harlem River Blues" sound almost joyous), these stories come from a place and a view of the world that he clearly recognizes. Without paternal arrogance, Steve knows just how talented his son was, and his performances show him doing his very best to make that clear. The final song, "Last Words," is the only tune Steve wrote for this album, and it's far simpler and more immediate than the songs that precede it. It's not maudlin, but it's shot through with a very real sadness that makes room for the puzzlement and anger that any father who has had to bury his own child must feel. If the final track is an act of public mourning, the rest of J.T. is the loving and appreciative celebration Justin Townes Earle's music deserves.
© Mark Deming /TiVo

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