Steve Earle’s tribute album to his late son Justin Townes Earle called J.T. will be released on January 4th, 2021 digitally, which would have been Justin’s 39th birthday. CD and vinyl copies to be made available on March 19th, 2021 via New West Records. The album will include 10 songs originally written by Justin Townes Earle, along with a new song from Steve to conclude the album.
“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,” says Steve Earle. “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.”
100% of artist proceeds and royalties from the album will be donated to a trust of Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle. The couple was married in 2013, and Etta was born in June of 2017. The recording will also feature Steve Earle’s backing band The Dukes, which currently consists of Chris Masterson on guitar, Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle and vocals, Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel, guitar and dobro, Brad Pemberton on drums and percussion, and Jeff Hill on acoustic and electric bass.
Well-respected as a songwriter and performer, Justin Townes Earle was one of the rising stars in the Americana scene after first releasing a well-received six-song EP called Yuma in 2007, which led to him being signed to Bloodshot Records out of Chicago. This led to five critically-acclaimed records beginning with 2008’s The Good Life.
By 2010, Justin Townes Earle was opening the doors for the country and Americana insurgency that would take root in the years to come. His album Harlem River Blues became a breakout, and the title track became the 2011 Americana Music Association’s Song of the Year, and he performed the song on Letterman with an up-and-coming Jason Isbell playing guitar.
After fulfilling his contract with Bloodshot Records, Justin Townes Earle moved to Vagrant Records where he released Single Mothers and Absent Fathers in 2014 and 2015 respectively, before moving to New West who released his final two records, Kids in the Street in 2017, and Saint of Lost Causes in 2019.
The death of Justin Townes Earle was announced on August 23rd via his official social media channels. It was explained on August 25th that police and fire had responded to Earle’s apartment in Nashville after receiving a request for a welfare check. When they arrived at the residence, they had to force entry, and found no signs of struggle or foul play.
Though the death was labeled “unclassified” pending findings from the Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville, police preliminarily determined Earle’s cause of death to be a “probable drug overdose.” However Saving Country Music has been able to confirm from numerous sources that in the weeks leading up to Justin Townes Earle’s death, he had been suffering from a severe case of pneumonia, and had been hospitalized due to the illness, and required surgery on his lung. Earle had also suffered from a collapsed lung previously. At the time of his death, Earle was still recovering from the condition, and was “very weak.”
Saving Country Music spoke to the Davidson County Medical Examiner on Wednesday (11/18), who confirmed, “The case is still pending additional studies. The doctor has not established a cause of death as of now.” However, the Medical Examiners Office has cited August 23rd as the date of Justin Townes Earle’s death, not August 20th, which has been widely reported. Final autopsy reports can take up to 12 weeks to conclude.
Ahead of the new tribute record, Steve Earle’s rendition of “Harlem River Blues” has been released (listen below). J.T. is now available for pre-order.
Steve Earle – J.T. Track List:
1. I Don’t Care
2. Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving
4. Far Away In Another Town
5. They Killed John Henry
6. Turn Out My Lights
7. Lone Pine Hill
8. Champagne Corolla
9. The Saint Of Lost Causes
10. Harlem River Blues
11. Last Words