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Justin Grows Musically - Harlem River is a Keeper!,
This review is from: Harlem River Blues (Audio CD)
Justin Townes Earle has been slowly gaining steam the last few years. He made his debut in 2008 with "The Good Life." He won the Best New and Emerging Artist at the 2009 Americana Music Awards. His last album "Midnight at the Movies" won much critical acclaim, including being named one of Amazon's best albums of the year. Needless to say, this was a much-anticipated release by many folks, myself included.
And it does not disappoint. Clocking in at just under 32 minutes, its brevity is made up for by the fact that there is simply not a bad song in the bunch. The album opens with the title track "Harlem River Blues." From the opening lines you hear something somewhat new to a JTE song: electric guitar. The first track is upbeat country-folk, with an undeniable gospel flavor. The opening acoustic guitar picking on "One More Night In Brooklyn" sounds more like a return to form from his previous two albums. Overall the song structure is typical JTE, but again the instrumentation develops more than on previous albums.
"Move Over Mama" is a bluesy honky-tonk number that fits Justin's style perfectly. The slapping upright bass contributes to its old-time feel, but what's that you hear in the background . . . electric piano! One of the highlights of the album is the beautiful "Workin' for the MTA." Pedal steel guitar flows throughout and perfectly augments this modern railroad tale. The nod to Woody Guthrie is undeniable. "Wanderin" is a perfect example of Justin's storytelling abilities, with wonderful harmonica and violin lines that fill the gap between each verse.
"Slippin and Slidin" is a mid-tempo number that again pushes the instrumental development of JTE's songs. There is electric guitar, organ, and even horns! "Christchurch Woman" is one of my favorite songs on the album. If there were going to be any single to be played on the radio, this would be it. "Learning To Cry" features some of his best vocals of the album, along with more pedal steel guitar and just a touch of horns. "Ain't Waitin" is a shuffling number with slapping upright bass driving the beat home and featuring harmonica throughout.
"Rogers Park" is another new favorite of mine. It starts off as a ballad, and opens and closes with a pretty solo piano line. It features beautiful lyrics that I have come to expect from JTE. The album closes with the 30 second reprise of "Harlem River Blues," featuring an a capella choir rendition of the opening track.
JTE's music sounds timeless, but is at the same time original. He incorporates all of his diverse influences and creates music that is both old and new. Many people have known about him since he began, but he can only be kept a secret for so long. Do yourself a favor and buy this album. Highly recommended!