Troubled days are behind me now and I know they're gonna let me in
August 24, 2020 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Justin Townes Earle, an accomplished alt-country singer and songwriter who was a son of the country-rock firebrand Steve Earle, died on Thursday at his home in Nashville. He was 38. His death was confirmed late Sunday by his record label, New West, which did not give a cause. “It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father and friend Justin,” read a post on the younger Mr. Earle’s Facebook page. “So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years, and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys.”

Some performances to remember him by:

Harlem River Blues on Letterman with Jason Isbell on guitar. 2010

Lone Pine Hill

Memphis in the Rain (Live at WFUV)

His NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2014

Nobody knows you when you're down & out (Ringwood Library, Ringwood, NJ 4/3/2011)

Appalachian Nightmare [Official Music Video] 2019

A couple longer sets:

Full Session (Live at The Current Day Party) 2019

Full Performance (Live on KEXP) 2012
posted by octothorpe (26 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Bob Regular at 4:09 PM on August 24, 2020

A lot of my facebook friends are people I know from Postcard2 and other alt-country mailing lists, and when this news broke yesterday, it was just a steady stream of people who knew him. I only knew his music, but it was powerful and beautiful.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:11 PM on August 24, 2020

I met him once. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

posted by thivaia at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2020

posted by Thrakburzug at 4:34 PM on August 24, 2020

Justin Townes Earle should have annoyed me, considering who is daddy was, and how he mirrored them—but I was fond of him. I saw him live as the first opener for the Mavericks, the second opener was Lucinda Williams, and there was a lot for those two to talk about—about mythology, about showing your roots, and then hiding them, about making country music self consciously literary when you come from a family that was lauded for the fact. I wonder if they talked about money, about who had it, who wanted it, and how to get it. What do you do as the son of Steve Earle, named after Townes Van Zandt, except sing pretty, play guitar prettier, write more smoothly than your daddy, and die stupidly young. I don’t know if he was a better song writer, but I have spent more time listening to Justin than Steve. I liked him better when he was funnier, when he was plainer, when he was less violent, and less “western”. He wrote one of the great working class songs of the year, and his cover of Graceland had a quiet plainness that swallowed Simon’s overwrought metaphor
posted by PinkMoose at 4:34 PM on August 24, 2020 [14 favorites]

posted by gauche at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2020

Oh, no.

posted by allthinky at 5:48 PM on August 24, 2020

Here's that Graceland cover, for those wondering.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:00 PM on August 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

He wrote one of the great working class songs of the year

Would you mind sharing the title of that song? I'd love to hear it and know very little about this gentleman's music.
posted by mediareport at 6:12 PM on August 24, 2020

Well shit. I'm far more bummed out about this than I would have expected. And not just because I didn't realize he was a couple years younger than me. A couple songs off "The Good Life" have stuck with me since it came out, and that record alone is enough to cement him in this half-assed songwriter's repertoire till I flake out myself.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:39 PM on August 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

sorry, that song is Champagne Corolla.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:48 PM on August 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by TheCoug at 7:54 PM on August 24, 2020

Thank you for this post. I was considering making one, but I just feel too defeated.
posted by Lonnrot at 7:57 PM on August 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was hoping that someone else would make the post but after a day of waiting, I figured I had to.
posted by octothorpe at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ah, shit. I just found out about this.

Well put, PinkMoose. Thanks for that.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:36 PM on August 24, 2020

Life's coincidences are strange: I first heard of Justin on Saturday when a song of his (his cover of The Replacements' Can't Hardly Wait) came up in the Townes Van Zandt radio playlist on Spotify and I made a mental note to listen to more of him after I looked him up. The next time I thought about that was when I opened Pitchfork on Sunday evening (looking for their Sunday older album review) to find out that he had died.

posted by urbanlenny at 8:39 PM on August 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 11:17 PM on August 24, 2020

posted by Gelatin at 5:39 AM on August 25, 2020

I discovered him thanks to his opening set before a Josh Ritter show about a decade ago. What a loss, and only 38.

posted by emelenjr at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2020

I remembered his cover of Atlantic City from an Onion AV club performance. Always meant to listen to more. Guess I still can.
posted by dismas at 8:26 AM on August 25, 2020

Heretofore, he never really landed with me. I've been a big fan of his dad since college, especially during his absolutely-on-fire period of productivity starting with I Feel Alright in '96 and running through Washington Square Serenade (at least; others would stretch it farther).

But obviously since the news broke Sunday, we've been listening. The live-on-Letterman version of "Harlem River Blues" is stellar, and I actually prefer it to the album track (and good on ya, octo, for using a lyric from it for the title here). We're wading in further.

We have a depressing pattern of only getting around to some artists after an untimely passing, but the music will wait for you. If you, like us, haven't spent any time with JTE, now's as good a time as any. As they said about blogging, the best time to start was 1997, and the second best time to start is right now.
posted by uberchet at 8:59 AM on August 25, 2020

Haven't listened to it yet, but the Broken Record podcast just put out an episode with a recent interview:

Justin Townes Earle: In Memoriam
posted by oakroom at 11:39 AM on August 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Rolling Stone says he died of a drug overdose.

“I used to use my music as an excuse to get high for a long time, saying that it was my right, but it’s not, it’s nobody’s right,” he said in 2012. “Your mother did not put you on this earth to treat yourself like that.”

posted by chavenet at 1:46 PM on August 25, 2020

I was pretty sure that was the case but didn't want to say that until I knew.
posted by octothorpe at 2:20 PM on August 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

We saw him in Asheville a couple years ago, on a bad night. People in the audience kept calling out (it didn't seem like heckling to us, but it clearly did to him), and he couldn't seem to shake it off. When he did take a break from yelling at them, the performance was sloppy and disjointed. We ended up sitting in a side room of the venue, picking at a plate of nachos and wishing he'd given us the show we'd hoped for. Now I'm sorry we won't get the chance to see him on a good night. What a loss.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:31 PM on August 25, 2020

I was gutted to wake up to this news yesterday morning. I saw him play a couple of times, and talked to him once after a show for a while. He was a mensch. Safe travels, Justin.
posted by essexjan at 3:11 PM on August 25, 2020

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