For every Hank Williams and Gram Parsons who never got clean there's a Carlene Carter and Steve Earle who kicked the junk and still kick the shit out of a song. With the help of his father, Justin Townes Earle has avoided self-immolation and channeled his demons into a prolific run of records, culminating in Harlem River Blues. Due next week on Bloodshot Records, Blues is a suite of hardscrabble folk, Sun Studio rockabilly, Springsteen-esque balladry and the kind of storytelling that would be tedious in less self-critical hands. "I see my dreams before my eyes, shadows on the wall," he sings on "Rogers Park." "I've got no place to fall." To capture emotion in the flash of an image takes craft and honesty, and the young Earle has both to burn.
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