On Wednesday, Steve Earle released “Harlem River Blues”, the first single off his forthcoming tribute album for his late son, Justin Townes Earle. Alongside his longtime backing band The Dukes, Steve Earle will release the album, dubbed J.T., on January 4th, which would have been Justin’s 39th birthday.
Justin Townes Earle passed away on August 20th of an apparent drug overdose in Nashville. The son of Steve Earle and his third of seven wives, Carol Ann Hunter, the younger Earle was named after folk troubadour Townes Van Zandt, who was an early influence on Steve. Justin would follow in his father’s footsteps as a musician, cutting seven albums in eleven years.
One of Justin’s most celebrated songs, “Harlem River Blues”, gets a breath of new life from Steve Earle. Alongside his trademark raspy voice, Earle and The Dukes add some new instrumentation to the tune with galloping drums, fiddle, and more. Despite the nature of how this cover came about, and the bluesy aura of the tune, the song serves the joyful purpose of celebrating a life filled with music and love—as well as sadness and tragedy.
As Steve Earle put it in a press release, J.T. is a critical part of his grieving process. “The record is called J.T. because Justin was never called anything else until he was nearly grown,” Steve said. “Well, when he was little, I called him Cowboy. For better or worse, right or wrong, I loved Justin Townes Earle more than anything else on this earth. That being said, I made this record, like every other record I’ve ever made… for me. It was the only way I knew to say goodbye.”
Listen to Steve Earle & The Dukes cover “Harlem River Blues” by Justin Townes Earle. J.T. is available for pre-order here. Justin’s family has also set up a GoFundMe to help cover the legal and medical expenses Justin incurred toward the end of his life. Scroll down to see the album’s full tracklist.
Steve Earle & The Dukes – “Harlem River Blues” (Justin Townes Earle)
[Video: Steve Earle]
Steve Earle & The Dukes – J.T. – Tracklist
1. I Don’t Care
2. Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving
4. Far Away In Another Town
5. They Killed John Henry
6. Turn Out My Lights
7. Lone Pine Hill
8. Champagne Corolla
9. The Saint Of Lost Causes
10. Harlem River Blues
11. Last Words
[H/T Brooklyn Vegan]