Steve Earle - J.T. Music Album Reviews

Steve Earle - J.T. Music Album Reviews
On this poignant covers album, Steve Earle inhabits his late son’s songs of love and loss as a means of moving through pain.

Just three months after Justin Townes Earle’s death, his father, Steve Earle, announced he was releasing a covers album of his son’s songs. The timeline seemed sudden: From the outside, inhabiting Justin’s songs of loneliness and loss appeared to be an act of emotional masochism. But everyone grieves in their own way, and for Steve those sessions were simply part of his own process, a means of communion and moving through pain. It “wasn’t cathartic as much as it was therapeutic,” he told the New York Times. “I made the record because I needed to.”
JT is not an autopsy, but many of these songs address Justin’s struggle with addiction by necessity: He wrote often about his own demons, such that any cross-section of his catalog will expose dark struggles. “Lord I’m going uptown, to the Harlem River to drown,” goes one of his best and most beloved songs; both father and son sing the lyric with a calm determination that seems to grow with every block north they walk. Drawing mostly from early in Justin’s career—half of these ten covers are from his first two releases—Steve doesn’t attempt any of the songs about him or Justin’s mother, who split not long after he was born. That’s just as well, since that might distract from the craft of the songs and the immediacy of the performances.

Not every song hints at Justin’s fate. Some just have a good story to tell, like “Lone Pine Hill” and “They Killed John Henry,” which reveal a songwriter with an abiding interest in American history and a keen empathy for the people who lived it. Other tunes have a different perspective on country’s favorite subjects: love gone bad, immense loneliness, an abiding desire for human connection. Steve settles into “Far Away in Another Town” like it’s a Texas Hill Country classic, bringing the same gravity and reverence you might hear someone apply to an old Hank Williams tune, and he musters a bluesy dread on “Turn My Lights Out.” (Its refrain, “I know it’s gonna be alright, when I turn out my lights,” is one of Justin’s pithiest and most devastating lyrics.) Only “The Saint of Lost Causes” doesn’t work: its brimstone sermonizing sounds like another songwriter altogether, and is weirdly out of place on this record.

JT plays like an album of first takes. It’s multifaceted in its messiness: a leather hide wrapped around a tender heart. That loose quality plays up the differences between father and son. Justin was a songwriter with a concise sense of melody, a singer with an eloquent approach to phrasing, and a guitar player with a style that gracefully combined traditional folk and rural blues picking. By contrast, Steve has a voice like a gravel driveway, a punk’s steely bravado, and what appears to be an abiding belief that a song’s imperfections are what make it so relatable. To hear Steve sing Justin’s songs is to hear him erase many of those differences and emphasize their similarities: their brutal candor, their emotional rawness, but most of all their shared belief that a sturdy song was the perfect weapon to beat back their darkest demons. “I don’t know where I’m headed, and I don’t care,” Steve sings on one of his son’s earliest songs, “I Don’t Care,” and it sounds like a sentiment that would alarm any father.

JT ends with the set’s only original from Steve, a short remembrance called “Last Words.” It’s the only time he specifically addresses his son’s death, the only time he acknowledges the very real loss that motivated this album. Using their final phone call as a framing device—which means their last words to each other were “I love you” and “I love you, too”—Steve ponders the pain his son felt and wonders what he might have done to ease it in any way. “I don’t know why you hurt so bad,” he sings. “Just know you did, it makes me sad.” The melody is simple and fleet, conveying immense confusion and hurt just beneath the words. It recalls one of Steve’s best compositions, “Goodbye,” but it also brings to mind several of Justin’s songs, as though the father has learned from his son. It’s a fitting farewell on this album, showing the world both the man and the talent we lost.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Steve Earle - J.T. Music Album Reviews Steve Earle - J.T. Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 03, 2021 Rating: 5


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