Okay, I know this is gonna sound horrible but I am gonna say it anyway. I know all about Justin’s recent troubles with the law and his possible/probable relapse. That said, I don’t care. I don’t know Justin from Adam and he don’t know me, so what he does in his personal life affects me in the same way reading about Lindsay Lohan’s latest antics on Perez Hilton does, which is a wordy way of saying that, outside of tabloid fascination, it doesn’t. See, ninebullets is a site about music and seeing as my relationship with Justin is as deep as the silver cd his label sends me, that’s all I need to write about.

There has also been a little discussion of whether Justin’s music is folk or country. Again, this is an argument that registers on the irrelevant radar for me. Country music has to be one of the most segmented and hyper-hyphenated genres in music and I try to avoid getting into the overclassification game. Ninebullets is about good music and there should little doubt about whether or not JTE falls into that category.

So now that we’ve filled a screen with what we’re not gonna talk about, let’s get into something we are gonna talk about; how good this album is. Harlem River Blues has certainly been a polarizing album. Seems people either love it or hate it, and I fall squarely in the love it category. To me, Harlem River Blues far exceeds his previous two efforts, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he pays very little to no reverence to the limits imposed by the country/alt.country fan base. He made an album as he wanted to. Too polished and full in sound to please the fundamental country crowd, while too calm and deliberate to appease the Double Latte Starbucks crowd. And, as if to take the wind out of both sails, there are moments that feel like a modern take on the 50’s bebop sound.

Personally, while I love Midnight at the Movies, Harlem River Blues feels like the album that should have followed The Good Life. Either way, it’s definitely Essential Listening, and even though Justin refuses to tour Florida (edit: Since I wrote this piece JTE has blinked and booked a Florida leg in November) I hope he’s out of rehab and back to penning and singing songs soon.

Justin Townes Earle – Move Over Mama
Justin Townes Earle – One More Night In Brooklyn
Justin Townes Earle – Slippin’ and Slidin’

Justin Townes Earle’s Official Site, Justin Townes Earle on myspace, Buy Harlem River Blues


  1. Ok I’m going to need to check this out now. I never warmed up to Midnight At the Movies but I loved the Good Life and his first EP.

  2. Man, I’m glad you like it. I also think it’s better than the (very good) last album. Yuma is still my favorite release of his, though, but all of his records so far have been really great. I want to see him live so bad. Damn!

  3. That review captures my feelings pretty much perfectly. His personal life is none of my damn business. The songs are great. And his live arrangements are always different than the studio ones, so anybody who has trouble with the record can get that stripped down “Yuma” sound from a show recording. Plus, I like what Jason Isbell did on this record.

  4. This is agreat album. He totally hit the nail on the head. I agree that it’s not country, or folk, it’s just him.

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