Man it is fun to be spot on right. But let’s not bury the lead, that being that you can now listen to Justin Townes Earle’s new album Harlem River Blues in its entirety through NPR’s First Listen. These are not previews, this is every song, and they will be available until the release date of September 14th.
Since your lovable, huggable Triggerman is such a titan of the music world, I have a had a copy of this album for a few weeks now, and when I first heard it, all of my fears about the direction of Justin Townes’ music were realized. Since then I have warmed up to it a little more, but what I was hearing was JTE catering his sound to what I’ve characterized many times as the “NPR bumper music” crowd.
This was the inspiration for a story I wrote called NPR’s Adverse Effect on Country & Roots Music. I honestly had no idea at the time that NPR would be the advertising vehicle the JTE camp would use, but simply from just listening to the music, I could tell that is what they were aiming for. A quote from that article:
“Another (album) is Justin Townes Earle’s upcoming Harlem River Blues. I predict this album will be huge, even though there’s a good chance it will get a neutral, or even a negative review from me. There’s just no direct connection with the roots in his music any more. It has been cleansed for top NPR compatibility. As his press release reads, it’s “more mature” than his previous albums. Well I guess that makes me immature.”
And make no mistake, I am a Justin Townes Earle fan. I named his album Midnight at the Movies my Album of The Year last year. I’m a huge supporter of his label Bloodshot Records, and believe it or not, a supporter of NPR. It’s good that JTE and other artists have an outlet for their music through NPR. And it’s not that this album is bad, its just not what I go dumping my bucket into the JTE well for.
I will have a full review coming up soon, but in the meantime give a listen yourself and leave your thoughts below. I want to be wrong about this album, but as the release date marches closer, I just keep being proved right.