Arts » Noise

Justin Townes Earle

Harlem River Blues

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Like the radsters who invented the Snuggie, Justin Townes Earle has created something we didn't know we needed. Harlem River Blues is a boardinghouse-sized hunk of country/blues inspired by Earle's adopted home of NYC that is as sunshiny as it is saturnine.

The title track is a delightfully upbeat song about committing suicide. Earle breezily sings, "Tell my mama I love her, tell my father I tried, give my money to my baby to spend/'cause Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown." A joyous suicide? While still in God's good graces? Choosing fate rather than tempting it? Hallelujah!

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"Workin' for the MTA," captures the toil of working for the NYC transit authority much as a Handsome Hat might sing of the rails up in Cheyenne, but drudgery is drudgery whether in the big city or real America. With dripping pedal steel and confessional lyrics à la Hank Sr., "Learning to Cry" might sound derivative to some, but Earle's Buck Owens-esque delivery makes for a ballad Nashville surely wishes it could still produce.

Over the course of four albums Earle's tinkering has improved both lyrically and musically. Blues isn't quite a Snuggie but it's darn close.

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