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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harlem River Blues - A Gutsy Country Album Inspired By New York City
Harlem River Blues is the kind of album that makes me wish that more people I knew listened to Country music. I run in several different musical circles. Many of the jazz lovers I know laugh at me for my love of Indie Rock. And for many of the Indie and Alternative Rock fans I know, the Alternative-Country thing doesn't exist. To them there is only Country, and they...
Published on September 13, 2010 by Mark

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harlem River Blues Justin Townes Earle
I do enjoy Justin Townes Earle's music and have found after a couple of CDs that the more I listen to him and his band, the more I like him. Good for me and him.
Published 22 months ago by CDP and his Amazon Habit of pu...


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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harlem River Blues - A Gutsy Country Album Inspired By New York City, September 13, 2010
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (MP3 Music)
Harlem River Blues is the kind of album that makes me wish that more people I knew listened to Country music. I run in several different musical circles. Many of the jazz lovers I know laugh at me for my love of Indie Rock. And for many of the Indie and Alternative Rock fans I know, the Alternative-Country thing doesn't exist. To them there is only Country, and they don't like Country music much.

But an album like this can remind us that good music is just good music, no matter what category you want to put it in. I'll even go so far as to call this "great music" because it resonated with me personally in a way that I think is great. Your individual tastes may vary so please forgive me if this is not your cup of tea.

Some people might think a country album inspired by New York City to be a contradiction. I think the juxtaposition works to great effect. The city was once a rural settlement, and away from the business centers and high rises there are still areas that remind you of a different time or place. Not to mention, the city has always attracted people from the country looking for a living. This album is like a chronicle of the songs that just one such lonely soul might have written after moving to NY from Tennessee.

Some of the songs are more upbeat romping tunes, like the title track "Harlem River Blues" and the very fun "Move Over Mama." And perhaps the best of the bunch, "Ain't Waitin'," has an infectious melody that just fits so perfectly with the lyrics. But by and large, this is a laid back relaxing album, the kind you might play on a Saturday afternoon.

My favorite song on this album is tough to pick. I really love "Christchurch Woman." And "One More Night In Brooklyn" has an easy feel to it and playful lyrics. The simple intro of guitar strumming kind of hangs in my mind.

Like all good music, this album reminds one of other great artists. "Slippin and Slidin" evokes the memory of classic Van Morrison albums like Tupelo Honey. "Move Over Mama" sounds like it could have been written by Jerry Lee Lewis for all I know! But "Rogers Park" is probably the song that had the most immediate impact on me. It's a smooth mid-tempo ballad, more in the vein of Lyle Lovett's Pontiac, and I can listen to it over and over again. "Workin For the MTA" also has the sound of a Lyle Lovett tune. Perhaps more artists will start covering some of Justin's great songs.

The sound engineering of this album seems designed to evoke a barn burner. In many cases individual instruments sound like they aren't even miked. A song like "Wanderin'" is a great example, with slightly reverberating vocals and a distant harmonica in the background with a fiddle and bluegrass guitar more in the foreground. This record makes the listener feel like they recorded these songs live with one microphone and an analog reel. This minimalist sound often takes a lot of engineering work to sound authentic. I would love to learn more about how this album was recorded for them to get this sound.

My only regret is that another Amazon exclusive deal has cost me again. I am an unrepentant collector of actual music media, from compact disks to vinyl records. So the fact that this download is available a day before the actual album means I will probably be buying this record twice. This is an experience that I can live with. This music warrants the investment.

Listen to this music. Buy this album, either in the form of the download or in a CD or a vinyl record. This album evokes a feeling of nostalgia that only the best music can. I am really enjoying listening to it. I hope that you will too.

Enjoy.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought it twice, September 13, 2010
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (MP3 Music)
I was waiting patiently for my cd copy when Amazon dangled a three dollar download in front of my face. Seemed like a fair price to pay to hear it a day early. Things sure have changed for Justin. He grew up without famous father Steve, developed a nasty drug habit by the age of 12 and actually ended up in his father's band The Dukes. That was before he was given the boot for his drug use. Kicked out of The Dukes for drug use? Considering pop eventually went to prison for his drug use, I can only imagine. These days, Justin is the 2009 best new artist for the Americana Music Awards, one of GQ's best dressed men and a resident of New York City just like his dad. "Harlem River Blues" is a hillbilly soul, backwoods twanger of a dustbowl folk album about New York City. Some of my favorites include the gospel choir backed, toe tapping title track. Should I be clapping my hands as the main character heads for a watery demise in the Harlem River? "Move Over Mama" sounds straight out of the Memphis Sun Studios playbook. "Workin' For The MTA" and "Wanderin'" sound like Justin is channeling former Manhattan resident Woody Guthrie. 'Christchurch Woman" sounds the most like his father to me. I could go through every song but why don't you just buy it? Download it, order the cd, do both, I don't care. This is a record that deserves to be heard by a man who started out knowing what he was doing and seems to only be getting better.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, melodic, haunting roots album., September 13, 2010
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (MP3 Music)
It takes a certain brilliance to dupe listeners. Justin Townes Earle pulls it off marvelously. HARLEM RIVER BLUES sounds like it could have been been written/performed in the 50s or 60s (except "Rogers Park," which is appropriately modern-sounding). It's a largely acoustic-based record ("Slippin' and Slidin'" is a more electric blues number), with melodic influences firmly rooted in Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, etc. "Ain't Waitin'" is such a tune, with a driving acoustic riff that conjures up beer halls and back alleys...which is why, when he sings "I put a country station on that satellite radio," it comes off as a major revelation.

Almost every song on here manages to blend the past and present. On "Working for the MTA," a chugging number which artfully (and subtly) compares running a subway train to working in a coal mine, Earle bemoans: "This ain't my daddy's train/Mama I ain't seen the sun in days." Lyrically, Earle comes off as a mixture between Warren Zevon and lighter Dylan ("Christchurch Woman," for example, is one of the most poetically imagined songs I've heard in a while); he's concerned with the working man, and to him, the working man is Everyman, from the days of freight trains to the days high-speed Internet. As such, HARLEM RIVER BLUES comes off as one of the more intimate, intricate country/folk records I've had the distinct pleasure of listening to. Justin Townes Earle easily slides out of his father's (Steve Earle) shadow, crafting an album that is destined to withstand the test of time--because these songs, both melodically and lyrically, are themselves timeless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And this is only his third...., January 20, 2011
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (Audio CD)
This is even better than what I've come to expect from Justin Townes Earle. The album is, as other reviewers have noted, just about perfect. Each time you listen, you'll hear not just Justin's voice, his unique lyrics and sound, but all the delicious allusions as well--it's hard, for instance, not to hear Johnny Cash in Justin's unusual delivery of "I'm learning to cry", not to hear his swift bow to Sam Cooke, the early classic blues laments, and all the gestures to--but not imitations of--the greats floating up in the songs. And Justin Townes Earle is obviously great. The title track--that glorious, uplifting song about suicide!--might just make you cry with its heraldry of joy: "If you see me walkin' up the FDR just a'singin' and a'clappin' my hands, tell my mother I loved her, tell my father I tried,give my money to my baby.." and on. The hollering gospel reprise on track 11 is another spiritual joy--try reversing the tracks too, experiencing this early gospel sound transitioning into Justin's single voice on track 1. Often, this musician's own happiness in making music--sometimes he might even be laughing--is communicable. My only frustration with Justin Townes Earle's albums is that sometimes his lyrics are not discernible, and with lyrics this intelligent, this emotional, this funny, lost lines are a shame. I'm still trying to make out key lines on MIDNIGHT AT THE MOVIES, and am having the same difficulty with several essential lyrics on this album. Oh: f you haven't seen him perform live, go. He'll make you feel great pretty damn good about being alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Cityscape, December 5, 2010
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (MP3 Music)
Recording a traditional American folk album about New York may seem a lofty premise, but Justin Townes Earle is artist enough to accomplish it. He samples musical styles ranging from Woody Guthrie and the Carter Family to Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt to create a musical landscape as wide as America and as specific as one city. This album is inventive, ambitious, and packed with intense musical power.

Sprightly, danceable tracks like "Ain't Waitin'" and "Move Over Mama" make good contrasts with more melancholy tracks like "Rogers Park" and "Learning to Cry." And though the title track proves that America's rural folk tradition can fit right at home in our largest city, songs like "One More Night in Brooklyn" and "Workin' for the MTA" reveal that Earle feels that frontier restlessness even in his adopted home city.

If I had to voice one complaint, this album runs to LP length, barely over thirty minutes. Just as I vanish into Earle's sonic cityscape, it ends and I'm back home again. He creates such a complex, multi-faceted portrait of his beloved NYC that I want to stay longer, immersed in the railroad tunnels, crowded streets, and rivers. And that's my highest praise: I only wish it were longer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another wide-ranging collection - he stays true to his roots..., October 30, 2010
This review is from: Harlem River Blues (Audio CD)
Justin Townes Earle's latest release, Harlem River Blues, reaffirms his affinity for off-the-beaten-path genres. Start with rockabilly in the vein of Johnny Cash, and bounce randomly thereafter to and from Americana folk, cowboy/fireside tunes, bluesy country western and back to rockabilly. Part of the appeal here is the brazen simplicity of the songs and arrangements. Instead of pioneering new territory, Earle warmly embraces a more primitive sound/style that is uncomplicated, perhaps even nostalgic. I can't speak for Mr. Earle, but Harlem River Blues could be seen as a songbook of influences - "I am all these things" - songs loosely related in tone, temperament and style, embracing the common threads, the most primary elements of American music. Main stream? Not so much, but thoroughly enjoyable.

GENRES: Americana, Folk, Rockabilly.

BUY IF YOU LIKE: Ryan Adams, Robert Earl Keen, The Avett Brothers, Johnny Cash.

MUST HEAR TRACKS: "Harlem River Blues," "One More night in Brooklyn," "Christchurch Woman," "Rogers Park."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Hook Blues, January 19, 2011
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (Audio CD)
This music coulda been born in a tiny apartment above the music space, Jalopy, in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Ryan Adams, in his Gold-era, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot and stumbling into a tenement where the heat pipes just cough. You can take your pick of rivers to drown in, but the Gowanus Canal is no way to go. Maybe travel down a cold train tunnel. No men setting down hard suitcases and politely removing their hats, just sad, modern faces tilted down. Wander, slip, slide, cry, drown. Pray the currents take us back to Tennessee.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Run. Don't Walk To Purchase This Album!, February 25, 2011
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (Audio CD)
I caught the last 30 seconds of the title track, Harlem River Blues, on my car radio and actually had to pull over to write down the name of the singer and song when the d.j. announced them. Up until that point, I had not heard anything so original and just plain GOOD in a long time. I own two copies; one stays in the car and the other stays in the house.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five enthusiastic stars!!!, April 7, 2012
By 
K C (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (MP3 Music)
I am simply, plainly, and truly hooked on this album and artist as a whole. Listen to Justin Townes Earle with your ears and heart, and he will quickly make an impression on you as well. Bloodshot Records (Thankfully!) releases free samplers often. When Bloodshot Records Best of 2010 became available, I snatched it up as soon as I was able. This particular sampler contained the title track of this recording. I quickly realized that not only was Harlem River Blues my favorite track on the sampler, I could not contain the urge to play it over, and over, and over again. I HAD to have more JTE!

What continues to surprise and impress my about Justin, is the range of styles that he possesses. Harlem River Blues might have enticed me to purchase this disc, but tracks like One More Night in Brooklyn, Christchurch Woman, and Rogers Park are my amongst my favorites on this recording. Ain't Waitin' absolutely takes the cake though! It makes me ridiculously happy every time I hear it.

Download this. Do it now (April 2012) as it is one of Amazons $5 downloads. It is worth so much more... but if you save money on this one, you will have more available funds to purchase other JTE recordings! I hope that you add his music to your collection and Justin adds as much auditory pleasure to your life as he has brought to mine. Happy listening my friends!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alt.country Or Not, Great Music, December 14, 2011
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This review is from: Harlem River Blues (Audio CD)
JTE does his famous dad proud. In an age when "real" country music is called "alt.country" (and real rock & roll is called alt.rock) Harlem River Blues is a collection of good, strong, organic tunes that don't look to be labeled, categorized, pidgeon-holed or otherwise contained by parameters that don't mean much of anything, anyway -- just songs which are well-crafted and thoughtfully executed with style. I saw this guy on TV performing the title track live, and bought the CD. I was not disappointed.
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Harlem River Blues
Harlem River Blues by Justin Townes Earle
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