Along with many others like me here in the United Kingdom, we all awoke this morning to the very sad news that the supremely talented American songwriter and musician Justin Townes Earle had passed away. The news was confirmed on the artist’s Facebook page last night. At the time of writing the cause of his death has not been disclosed. He was 38 years of age.
“It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father, and friend Justin” his official Facebook page announced.
“So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys. You will be missed dearly Justin.”
Justin was the son of the legendary country and folk singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who named him after his friend, the late, great Townes van Zandt. Justin’s mother, Carol Ann Hunter, apparently never cared for the name, Justin had told Rolling Stone magazine last year.
Justin Townes Earle emerged from the creative shadow of his father to establish for himself a hugely-deserved and highly-respected reputation as an artist in his very own right. During a recording career which dates from 2007 he produced nine excellent albums the most recent of which The Saint of Lost Causes was released in May of last year. He was twice honoured at the Americana Music awards including for his best-known song, ‘Harlem River Blues’ (taken from his 2010 album of the same name).
I had the great pleasure of seeing him play twice, at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds in 2015 and then again two years later at The Crescent in York. On both occasions he was accompanied on stage by his fellow Nashvillian and erstwhile Lambchop member, Paul Niehaus. And on both occasions he played ‘Harlem River Blues’ yet my abiding memory of Justin Townes Earle comes from the Leeds’ show when for his first encore that February evening he performed an absolutely sublime cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ in which he transcended all the loneliness, despair and devastation which seems to have characterised much of his life.
Photo Credit: Simon Godley