Steve Earle & The Dukes: J.T. (New West) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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New West

Jan 20, 2021 Steve Earle & The Dukes Bookmark and Share

Steve Earle has never been reluctant to credit those whose footsteps he has followed in. Notably, he has already recorded tribute albums of material by Townes Van Zandt (Townes) and Guy Clark (Guy). Not only that, he wrote and recorded one of the finest eulogy songs you can find, “Ft. Worth Blues,” in honor of Van Zandt. That song was later recorded by Clark, who himself may have penned the eulogy song to rule them all, “The Randall Knife,” in honor of his father. All of this by way of saying Earle’s own son, Justin Townes Earle, was born into the midst of Texas songwriter royalty.

Here the elder Earle pays honor to his son, who passed away this past August. Along with one original, Earle has covered 10 of his son’s songs with able assistance from long time backing band, The Dukes. One of Justin Townes’ earliest recorded songs, “I Don’t Care,” leads things off and makes a sly, inflation adjusted reference to namesake Van Zandt’s “Rex’s Blues.” This song and the most likely well known Justin Townes’ song, “Harlem River Blues,” are given particularly celebratory treatments. So J.T. is no sad sack affair in spite of its quick arrival in the wake of what must still be an open wound. Earle’s Exile On Main Street influenced take on “Far Away In Another Town” is another clear highlight that showcases Justin Townes’ plain spoken mastery of his craft. And Earle’s closing eulogy to his son, “Last Words,” may not have his hallmark picking and poetry, but makes up for it with lump in the throat truths. That ultimately is the common thread that inexorably binds these four fine songwriters, whether still here or waiting on the other side. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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