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Remembering Justin Townes Earle

"Justin Townes Earle may have had a top-notch pedigree, but his music connected with people precisely because he came across as one of them. The son of one alt-country trailblazer (Steve Earle) and the namesake of another (Townes Van Zandt), he imbued his artful narratives with humility and deep empathy. While his well-crafted songs are inseparable from his own story, what mattered most was that his characters' desolation felt real," Marc Hogan writes for Pitchfork.

"Ranging freely across country, folk, Americana, Western swing, Memphis soul, and more, he built up a prolific discography as a rootsy, down-to-earth songwriter's songwriter. He sang with a gentle rasp that made commanding a stage seem as no-big-deal as bumming a cigarette outside the venue. Upon the heartbreaking news of Earle's passing, here are five songs that can serve as an introduction to his humble gravitas."

Click through to get started.

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JTE was once on Chicago's Bloodshot Records. Here's owner Rob Miller's remembrance.

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Justin Townes Earle in the Beachwood over the years.

June 5, 2009
Beachwood Briefing: Justin Townes Earle

Beachwood Music: You lived in Chicago years ago. Where did you live, and what are your memories?

Justin Townes Earle: I was there when I was 17 for maybe a little over a year. I'd hang around the Old Town School of Folk Music. It was a bunch of really artistic people attempting to live this artistic life. I stayed on the east side of Rogers Park on Touhy and Greenleaf. At the time, it was a perfect neighborhood for me. It was rough, and there was a lot of dope. All the trouble was all right there.

Beachwood Music: I'm a former Rogers Park resident. Which places did you favor in the neighborhood?

Justin Townes Earle: Red Line Tap. Morseland. But my whole life revolved around whatever it is you call Bucktown now. On Western Avenue there was this bar that I don't even want to talk about now.

Beachwood Music: How was Chicago good to you? What made you leave?

Justin Townes Earle: For me, it was about being on my own. The friends I had in Nashville, I grew up with. Chicago was my first chance to be somewhere that no one really knew anything about me. I was able to get friends on my own terms.

But I got into a lot of trouble in such a short period of time, like a lightning flash, and all of a sudden I'm back South.

Beachwood Music: You self-released your debut, Yuma. Talk about your relationship with Bloodshot Records, which has released The Good Life and Midnight at the Movies.

Justin Townes Earle: A friend of a friend gave me an address for some guy's house, Rob. I must admit when I went over there it took me a few hours to figure out it was Rob Miller (co-founder of the label). He came and saw me play, and it all kind of happened from there. It all fell together.

Bloodshot's been nothing but good to me. Never once did they hear any of my records before I sent them to be pressed. No advance tracks, nothing. They sign people because they trust them. That's the beautiful part.

These bigger labels . . . They don't give a fuck about music anymore. Everybody who works at Bloodshot Records, especially Rob and Nan Warshaw, are huge music fans. They absolutely love what they do.

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September 25, 2009
Bloodshot Briefing: Exene's Back

Good fortune for music lovers in Southern Illinois.

Both the Bottle Rockets and Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive-By Truckers, happen to be in Carbondale this Sunday. Brian Henneman's never played this town before. No better person to share your virginity with than Isbell, who played with Bloodshotter Justin Townes Earle in Chicago this summer.

Speaking of Earle, he won the New & Emerging Artist of the Year award at last week's Americana Music Festival. The GQ-modeling country crooner sported a maroon suit with a bow tie.

Next up for Earle is a Grammy nomination. He's fastly becoming the Main Street face of Bloodshot, and for all the right reasons.

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January 24, 2010
Bloodshot Briefing

Artist: Justin Townes Earle
Album: Midnight at the Movies
Review: "On his 2008 debut, Justin Townes Earle, son of rebel troubadour Steve Earle, seemed like he was getting up to speed with classic country and folk forms," Rolling Stone wrote [link dead; no replacement found]. "But he sounds like a natural-born honky-tonker on his new album."

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January 7, 2011
Justin Townes Earle Hearts NY

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May 31, 2011
The Weekend In Chicago Rock
At Millennium Park.

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May 14, 2012
The Weekend In Chicago Rock
At Park West

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August 7 2015
The Week In Chicago Rock
At City Winery.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on August 27, 2020


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