So I missed a day posting anything on the website and this is why. Lawrence, KS is a comfortable 75 minute drive from St. Joseph, MO so I decided to go see the Justin Townes Earle on a Thursday night. The Bottleneck in Lawrence is a great venue for the music I listen to which can be summed up this way as put by Matt at TruerSound:
Q: What kind of music do you listen to?
A: The kind of shit they play in bars.
The Bottleneck is a bar. It has several publicity photos on the wall of the now legendary names including Soundgarden, Wilco, Foo Fighters, Spoon, Cake and this list goes on a while. It is a roomy conformable venue for shows. It’s size is properly suited for an artist such as Justin Townes Earle.
I first heard Justin Townes Earle when he opened for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit a few years ago at Knucklehead’s in Kansas City which is a horribly uncomfortable place to see a show by the way. I only knew that Justin was as he puts it; his father’s son. Son of Americana legend Steve Earle, he didn’t mention his father on that night but since has furthered himself as a legitimate performer in his own right. He made a believer out of me on that night, I now spin all his records so the Lawrence show was all but a must attend.
Earle came on stage about 10:10 and pounded through an 80 minute set spanning his three records. The new(and brilliant) Harlem River Blues was hit very hard by Earle, and appropriately so. I don’t have a complete setlist of the show but I can confirm the setlist contained among many others; South Georgia Sugar Babe, Midnight at the Movies, They Killed John Henry, Mama’s Eyes, Can’t Hardly Wait, Halfway to Jackson, Harlem River Blues, I Don’t Care, One More Night In Brooklyn, Learning To Cry, Ain’t Waitin’ Cadallac Blues and Racing In the Streets.
The songs from the new album were slowed from the album versions. They were simplified from the brilliant Jason Isbell guitar on the album and made to fit just Earle’s acoustic guitar and single violin accompaniment. Cadallac Blues, Racing In The Streets and Can’t Hardly wait were covers Earle mixed in throughout the evening. The last two songs composing Earle’s Encore that left the crowd happy and satisfied. An encore of songs written by Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg will always get my approval.
Earle was upfront about his thoughts on his father and his issues with as he put it “problems with chemical dependence and incarceration.” Both subjects can be summed up by Earle’s comment about what his father once said about him, something along the lines of: I’m a hard dog to keep under the porch.
The highlights of the evening for me were a great singalongs of “They Killed John Henry” and “Harlem River Blues.” Always great was hearing Earle’s brilliant reading of the Replacement’s “Can’t Hardly Wait.” Earle’s banter may have been the highlight of the evening. he was funny, charming and honest in his between-songs banter. The guy is a great performer and should have a future of many great albums and shows. My ears will likely be involved with each.