He’s a native Nashville cat who makes his home in New York City. A lanky, “all angles and elbows” outsider who’s been named to GQ’s list of “Style Stars.” A second-generation iconoclast who backs up that “wicked sense of style” with hard skills, a reverent musical wisdom beyond his years, and a guitar/vocal technique that’s allowed him to wow audiences variously characterized as “bluegrass,” “Americana,” “blues,” “folk” and “alternative.”
Being the son of country contrarian Steve Earle – and being named for iconic rebel Townes Van Zandt – might have strait-jacketed another, lesser performer’s ambitions. But with a catalog of critically acclaimed albums to his credit, and a growing fanbase built over the course of countless road miles, Justin Townes Earle is very much his own breed of American original – and he’s just getting started.
When JTE crosses the river to New Jersey on the evening of Saturday, March 9, he’ll be making his first major concert appearance in the area – a milestone for the man who’s “played on street corners and in some of the worst, nastiest honky-tonks in America.”
What’s more, he’ll be doing it on the stage of the venue that’s hosted some of the most legendary international folk music artists, as well as the sought-after acts in traditional bluegrass and “newgrass” – the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University.
Having marked his 30th birthday in 2012, the Americana Music Award winner will be working his recent Bloodshot Records release Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – his fourth full-length project, and the subject of an ongoing tour that’s carried him from the Deep South to midnight-sun Scandinavia.
Singing with a weathered maturity that summons echoes of Tom Waits and The Boss; adding Memphis-soul horn arrangements to an increasingly “citified” signature sound, JTE stakes out a street corner that’s as far from his previous album Harlem River Blues as it is from the cookie-cutter, cowboy-hatted country of Music Row.
Worldly, gritty songs like “Look the Other Way,” “Maria” and the title track deliver the goods with Guthrie-like grace and a rootsy authority that place him as one of the greatest new American songsmiths – a fully evolved performer who draws his bracingly honest songcraft from a well of hard-won life experience.
The Southern man who’s more likely to pen a song about “One More Night in Brooklyn” or “The Lower East Side” than to name-check the usual honkytonk boilerplate has left any theme-park dreams of Opryland far behind. Still, Nashville’s loss is America’s gain – and when JTE comes to Monmouth U, he’ll have the future on his side, his past where it can’t do anything but make him stronger, and a here-and-now that’s all about proving his pedigree every time he stands in front of an audience. It’s a boundary-busting experience that’s pure Justin Townes Earle music.
To purchase tickets for the 8 p.m. event, or for additional information on the Performing Arts season, please contact the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts. To schedule an interview, please contact Eileen Chapman at 732-571-3512.