Friday, 12 October 2007

Justin Townes Earle & Jubal Lee Young

The Luminaire, Wednesday 10 October

Before this gig I'd barely heard a Justin Townes Earle song, let alone seen him perform. Like most of the small audience at the Luminaire I imagine, I'd come based solely on the fact that Justin is Steve Earle's son and he's named after Townes Van Zandt.

Thankfully Justin more than delivers on his heritage. His songs' references are broad enough to encompass the American civil war and his own checkered past. He introduced one song by saying, "I've been a junkie, thief and alcoholic. Somewhere I managed to fit in singer-songwriter" and dedicated it to a girl who'd worked at the methadone clinic in Asheville, NC. Like father, like son.

I suspect Justin's had a fairly difficult relationship with Earle Sr. I think Steve's time in jail would have occurred when Justin was a young teenager. When someone in the audience shouted "Your dad's alright!" Justin's quick reply was, "He's a damn fine songwriter".

It's a measure of Justin's own songwriting talent and his stage presence - just him and a acoustic guitar - that I wasn't constantly thinking, "That's Steve Earle's boy up there" though Justin did concede to play one of his dad's tracks, explaining that he never used to but would be pretty pissed off himself if he'd gone to see Arlo Guthrie and didn't hear one of Woody's songs.

Impressed, I bought Justin's six-song EP Yuma. It's superb.

Support came from Jubal Lee Young, another southern songwriter progeny. I don't know much about Jubal's dad, Steve Young, but he has a good turn in the brilliant 1975 doc Heartworn Highways.

Jubal looks and sounds like a good ol' boy but his raucous songs aren't all about women and boozing - he's pissed off politically too and found a willing audience to engage in some low-level Bush baiting.

The encore saw Justin and Jubal share the stage, swapping songs, but sadly not playing together (no rehearsal time apparently). It didn't matter - Jubal played a bunch of his dad's songs and Justin's set of covers included a lovely version of Gram Parsons' Song For You, though the harmonies from the pissed-up bloke next to me didn't quite match Emmylou's.

MP3: Justin Townes Earle - Ghosts Of Virginia

MP3: Jubal Lee Young - Greed Is The Creed


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