About a dozen or so years ago, I ate lunch every day at the old Wild Oats grocery store in Nashville’s Green Hills. Now the site of Trader Joes, it once was a great communal place to eat lunch and converse with both friends and strangers alike. Sitting alone outside one afternoon, a young lad sat at the table next to me and excitedly started to tell me about his new band. Knowing most things music-related like I do, I recognized the fellow to be Justin Townes Earle. We chatted only briefly and as memories fade, all I’m left with is remembering how passionate he was about his music.
Moving fast forward, Justin developed into a talented artist who I greatly admire. While not ignoring the musical roots of what his daddy Steve taught him, he did it in a style of his own giving a slick sound to the early folk, gospel and blues sounds he adores. He also carries a flair for fashion that mirrors the music he plays with a unique clawing guitar technique. And yes, like his Dad, he’s had to deal with demons. But, for some time now it’s been a green light and all seems good in the world of Mr. Justin Townes Earle.
For me, this Franklin show follows Justin’s headlining debut at Nashville’s Ryman in 2014 which for whatever reason was a lackluster performance that I’d rather forget. Something kept this night from being the magical event for Justin that it should have been.
However, with forgiveness in my heart, Justin won me back in my hometown of Franklin. With an opening set and backing from an Americana band hailing from Canada, The Sadies, Justin kicked-off a captivating groove that he never let falter. This band, along with JTE’s long-time guitarist, Paul Niehaus, fit him as sharply as one of his expertly-tailored suits.
JTE played a good selection of songs (7 of the 12) from his new record, Kids in the Street, that was then just a few days from its release, but available for sale in the lobby along with a 7-inch single featuring a B-side of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” In the tradition of Justin’s knack for great cover renditions such as The Replacement’s “Can’t Hardly Wait” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” tonight’s live set would also feature a Carter Family tune.
Sitting close to the stage, it was hard not to feel how comfortable this man feels in his own skin. He was joyful and confident while he also seemed to be cautiously aware of what he has been through. He spoke to us in between each song, welcoming us to his world. Having spent most of his youth in Nashville, and performing tonight in front of his mother, he spoke about the good times living here (even a night in the Franklin jail) while also sharing his sense of relief to have made the right decision to move away.
Well, whatever it was, bad experiences or conservative politics that finally caused Justin to leave Music City, I’m sure glad that he can still find some pleasure in returning home. Especially when he gives a show as delightful as this one and in such a beautiful theater.
- Champagne Corolla
- Maybe a Moment
- One More Night in Brooklyn
- What’s She Crying For
- Move Over Mama
- Black Eyed Suzy
- Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
- They Killed John Henry (solo)
- Mama’s Eyes (solo)
- Gold Watch and Chain (Carter Family cover)
- Christchurch Woman
- Trouble Is
- Farther from Me
- Ain’t Waitin’
- White Gardenias
- What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome
- Short Hair Woman
- Faded Valentine
- Harlem River Blues
Justin Townes Earle—vocals and acoustic guitar
Paul Niehaus—guitar and pedal steel
with The Sadies:
Travis Good—guitar and violin
Sean Dean—upright bass