On August 20th, 2020 the world lost Justin Townes Earle. While this dealt a crushing blow to the world of folk and Americana music in which he inhabited, it was even more devastating for Justin’s father and fellow musician Steve Earle.
Known for his rugged outlook that helped define his signature brand of outlaw country, Steve chose to grieve the loss of his son in the most cogent emotional language he knows: music. On January 4th, which would have marked Justin’s 38th birthday, Steve Earle & The Dukes released J.T., a tribute album comprised of songs written by the younger Earle meant to serve as a goodbye from father to son.
“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.”
The album spans Justin’s career which he was able to expand to an impressive degree in his 37 years on this Earth. Starting the 11-track record with “I Don’t Care” off Justin’s debut release, Yuma, Steve explores hits like “The Saint Of Lost Causes” and “Harlem River Blues” as well as deep cuts like “Far Away In Another Town” off of 2008’s The Good Life.
J.T. also contains one original song, written by Steve for his son. Fittingly titled “Last Words”, the song is as heartbreaking as expected with the repeated refrain, “Last thing I said/Was I love you/Your last words to me were/I love you too.” As the song tracks Steve’s relationship with his son from the day he was born to the day he died, listeners know that this is a pain Steve will carry his entire life and possibly permeate further into new music.
Stream J.T., the new tribute album from Steve Earle to his son Justin Townes, below. Justin’s family has also set up a GoFundMe to help cover his end of life costs.
Steve Earle & The Dukes – J.T.