Watch Steve Earle Cover Justin Townes Earle’s “Harlem River Blues” & “Far Away In Another Town” On Kimmel
We’re only eight days into 2021, but we might’ve already heard the saddest album of the year. Last year, the roots-music singer and songwriter Justin Townes Earle died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at the age of 38. On Monday — the day that would’ve been Justin’s 39th birthday — Justin’s father, the country-rock legend Steve Earle, released J.T., an album of his son’s songs. And on last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Earle played a couple of those songs.
In a vacuum, you could just see last night’s performances as just Steve Earle playing some great songs. Earle and his backing band the Dukes rocked their way through “Harlem River Blues” on the show proper, and they also gave a soulful version of “Far Away In Another Town” as an online bonus. (Both original songs came from Harlem River Blues, Justin’s 2010 album.) The band sounded great, and Steve seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself up there.
But of course, it’s impossible to watch last night’s performances in a vacuum. Knowing what we know, those performances are a great act of parental love and sadness. Both songs are about leaving your life behind, and they take on whole new meanings now. At the end of “Harlem River Blues,” Steve says, “See you when I get there, cowboy.” Watch both performances below.
J.T. is out now on New West Records.