Steve Earle – “Harlem River Blues” (Justin Townes Earle Cover)

Sara Sharpe

Steve Earle – “Harlem River Blues” (Justin Townes Earle Cover)

Sara Sharpe

It’s hard to imagine sadder circumstances for a new album release. In August, the singer and songwriter Justin Townes Earle died at the age of 38. In September, the country legend Steve Earle, Justin’s father, announced that he was recording an album of his late son’s songs. That album will come out soon. Early next year, Steve Earle will release J.T., the album of Justin Townes Earle songs that he recorded with his longtime backing band the Dukes. The album includes 10 of Justin’s songs, as well as one new song from Steve. 100% of the artist advance and royalties will go to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, Justin’s three-year-old daughter.

In a press release, Steve Earle says:

The record is called J.T. because Justin was never called anything else until he was nearly grown. Well, when he was little, I called him Cowboy. For better or worse, right or wrong, I loved Justin Townes Earle more than anything else on this earth. That being said, I made this record, like every other record I’ve ever made… for me. It was the only way I knew to say goodbye.

Fuck, man.

Today, Steve Earle has shared his version of “Harlem River Blues,” one of his son’s best-known songs. “Harlem River Blues,” the title track from Justin’s 2010 album, is a song about someone planning his own death: “Lord, I’m going uptown/ To the Harlem River to drown/ Dirty water gonna cover me over/ And I’m not gonna make a sound.” Musically, it’s an energetic country-rock ramble, just like the original. Below, listen to Steve Earle’s cover and Justin Townes Earle’s original, and check out the tracklist for J.T.

01 “I Don’t Care”
02 “Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving”
03 “Maria”
04 “Far Away In Another Town”
05 “They Killed John Henry”
06 “Turn Out My Lights”
07 “Lone Pine Hill”
08 “Champagne Corolla”
09 “The Saint Of Lost Causes”
10 “Harlem River Blues”
11 “Last Words”

J.T. is out 1/4 on New West Records. Also, on 12/13, Steve Earle is hosting a virtual version of his annual John Henry’s Friends Benefit Concert For Autism. Earle will perform alongside Emmylou Harris, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell, and Amanda Shires, among others. You can find out more about it here.

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