Despite being touted as one of the "forefathers of Contemporary Americana," Justin Townes Earle's influences stretch far beyond the limits of his native Nashville. Sure, the title track off 2010's Harlem River Blues sounds like reading a page out of Hank Williams' songbook, with words like, "dirty water gonna cover me over and I'm not gonna make a sound." And yes, the foot-stomping rhythms of his songs could make a hoedown out of the hippest venue. And, yes, his father is Grammy-winning Americana singer Steve Earle.
But the organ deceptively blasting behind guitar on songs like "Memphis in the Rain" hint at a collection of soul records stashed under the Cash albums. His dedication to newfound sobriety and a wife at home don't echo the rambling heroes of Americana legend (including his father). Perhaps most telling, "White Gardenias," off his upcoming album Single Mothers, pays explicit tribute to Billie Holiday and her 1956 Carnegie Hall performance.
Justin Townes Earle
The uptick in Americana's popularity in recent years has led Earle to comment, "I don't really know what 'Americana' means anymore." Earle's release of the genre restriction lends to his songs, which—while having an undeniable similarity to other Americana groups of today—feel free, authentic, and personally meaningful in a way that musicians of all types strive.
The down-home, twangy tunes of Justin Townes Earle may be lumped into the Americana tab of the music blogosphere, but his albums could fit into the library of anyone who appreciates solid songwriting and musical know-how.
This contest is now over.