Justin Townes Earle at World Cafe Live
Justin Townes Earle on May 23, 2018
The question is “Did I have more fun after the show than during it?" The answer, of course, is no, but I did have a great time talking to Justin Townes Earle backstage after the show. I usually stay after a show if there is a meet and greet just to introduce myself to the performer and tell them I will be forwarding the No Depression review with pictures to their management and how much I enjoyed the show. Often we have a little chat but after a long line of fans at the meet and greet I totally understand that they are very ready to go home, or to the bus.
Well, after the show with Earle it was a bit different. There was no meet and greet so his tour manager took me backstage to say hi. I was greeted with open arms and a request for a big hug. I have photographed Earle at least three times previously so there was some familiarity, but this wasn’t expected. We talked about the show and traded a couple of stories about things he mentioned in the show. Then I brought up his mentioned love of baseball. Well, that was it, we talked nothing but baseball from that point on. Who knew Justin Townes Earle was so knowledgeable in baseball history. I know a lot of people that are sports nuts but very very few who know the game of baseball as well as JTE. As I am also a lover of baseball we had a great talk. Both of us being National League fans, me Phillies and he the Cubs, we agreed immediately that the American League since instituting the Designated Hitter no longer plays real baseball. It was such a comfortable time I felt like we could have talked for hours. And Justin, if you read this Odubel Herrera ended his consecutive games with a hit streak at 45 games.
Anyway on with the show and what an absolutely great show it was. Up front, I love his voice and his songwriting…period. Justin’s banter between songs shows the experience of years on the road. Great voice, great songs, great stories, what more could I ask for? Justin started off with “Champagne Corolla” a great 1950’s rock and roll sounding song and then “Maybe a Moment” from his latest album Kids In The Street. Then he sang “Memphis in the Rain” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now” from the album of the same name and sound like they come from a time when Justin may not have been cool with his life. Two down but really great songs. He then introduced “What's She Crying For” saying the title just make more sense said that way. Justin then shifted to a bit of the blues. He played a Mance Lipscomb song “So Different Blues” followed by Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Automobile Blues”. I gotta tell you Justin Townes Earle can sing and play the blues. Wow.
“Mama’s Eyes followed an explanation of just how tough his mom could be and it is a beautiful song showing feelings about his mom and his dad. Great song. “They Killed John Henry” is a folk ballad kind of song he wrote, he dedicated it to his grandfather Jack Dublin Earle who could tell stories for hours.
This review is getting long so I’m going to skip to the end. One of my favorite Justin Townes Earle songs ”Harlem River Blues” This could have been a great end to a great show but the encore topped everything off. Justin talked about Malcolm Holcombe a songwriter he said whose influences could not be traced. Along with Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, Justin said Holcombe was a totally unique songwriter. He then sang a Malcolm Holcombe song “Who Carried You” followed by The Replacements’ “Can't Hardly Wait” to end a fantastic night of music. Justin Townes Earle is still on tour so absolutely catch him if you can. I don’t want to forget to mention Lilly Hyatt who opened the show. An absolutely fantastic, and dynamic performer who got the show off to a great start. Look her up and catch her if you can.
Mark J. Smith