For those that follow Justin Townes Earle, you probably recall that he was fired from his Dad’s band after developing some “bad habits.” He then found sobriety, his solo song craft, and put out two phenomenal country albums in The Good Life and Midnight At The Movies.
We’re not ones to gossip and normally I’d leave any “off the wagon” rumors off the table, but Justin just announced that his tour is canceled while he enters rehab. The clues have been there. His tour cancellation announcement features a comment from a fan apologizing for helping him score coke. His Twitter profile has shown some “colorful” rants, including a picture of his bleeding ass. He was arrested in Indianapolis after reported issues with fans and the venue. I’ve seen him perform many times over the past few years and his stage banter indicated that he may dipping his toes back in the “bad habits” water – like in San Francisco when he praised the crowd for the city’s high grade weed.
I just figured it was medicinal.
On his latest album, Harlem River Blues, there’s a track called Slippin’ and Slidin’ that sums up his situation with autobiographical lyrics (these may not be entirely accurate):
Why do I try my luck?
I should never touch the stuff.
But it shouldn’t make any difference.
As long as I keep up appearances.
This all didn’t come as much surprise. Staying sober in his chosen vocation is like riding a wagon coated in Crisco. It shouldn’t diminish the quality found in Harlem River Blues, however. This album doesn’t have the stand out tracks that stirred your soul like “Mama’s Eyes” on Midnight At The Movies, but it’s great travelin’ music. “Move Over Mama” sounds like an early Elvis Presley song from the late 50′s, “Workin’ for the MTA” is yet another train song that would make Cash proud, and “Wanderin’” weaves acoustic guitar, fiddle, hand claps and harmonica into a foot stomping barn dancer.
Harlem River Blues didn’t immediately hit me like Justin’s last two albums, but many drives down winding country back roads changed my perspective and I’ve grown to adore it. Justin Townes Earle has been a big supporter of ours. He stopped in for one of our earliest sessions, performed at our first SxSW party, and even watched a Cubs game with us at Wrigley. I’ve watched addiction take the life of someone close to me and I’m thankful that he had the wisdom to seek help. We wish him the very best of luck in sorting this out we’ll be standing in the crowd when his tour is reignited.