Americana singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle has died. News of his passing came via his Facebook page. He was 38.
It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father and friend Justin. So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys.
You will be missed dearly Justin 💔
“I’ve crossed oceans
Fought freezing rain and blowing sand
I’ve crossed lines and roads and wondering rivers
Just looking for a place to land”
Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Earle is the son of Outlaw Country artist Steve Earle and Carol Ann Hunter Earle. His middle name comes from his father’s mentor, Townes Van Zandt. Raised almost entirely by his mother, Justin did follow in his father’s footsteps both as an artist, and as a recovering addict.
After playing in a couple Nashville bands, Justin played guitar and keyboards for his father’s band, The Dukes, for some time. Earle developed his own hybrid sound, combining country music, folk, and blues, releasing his first EP, Yuma, in 2007.
Eight full length LPs followed, beginning with The Good Life in 2008. His most recent release was The Saint of Lost Causes in 2019 via New West Records.
It was his 2010 Bloodshot Records album, Harlem River Blues, that landed him on our list of the Top 10 Americana Albums to Own on Vinyl and won Earle the Americana Music Award for Song of the Year for the title track.
Taking his southern roots, and mixing them with a big city feel, this album is as at home being played on a front porch as it is on a fire escape. From the rockabilly vibe of “Move Over Mama,” to Motown-ish groove of “One More Night in Brooklyn,” this is one of the records that you want to play again, as soon as it ends. Spoiler alert: Jason Isbell appears on this Bloodshot Records release, providing guitar, and joining in on the choir vocals.
In 2009, Earle won the New and Emerging Artist of the Year award from the Americana Music Honors & Awards. He also toured with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Old Crow Medicine Show and The Felice Brothers that year.
During his all-too-short career, Earle played such prestigious venues as The Grand Ole Opry, SXSW, The Beacon Theater, Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, and The East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival in Byron Bay, Australia.
Messages of condolence have already been pouring in from Earle’s contemporaries, friends and fans:
sending love and condolences to Steve Earle and the entire family of Justin Townes Earle… he was always kind to me and he’s gone too soon – Margo Price
Had a lot of good times and made a lot of good music with JTE. So sad for his family tonight. Justin bought the suit I got married in. – Jason Isbell
My friend, Justin Townes Earle, has passed away. Such a tremendous songwriter…he took me on 2 tours and always treated me so kindly….he understood struggle, he understood joy…I saw him at the peaks and valleys of both through the 13 years I knew him…we will miss you JT – Samantha Crain
I am beyond heartbroken. You were my muse, my friend, and my brother. I will always remember your kindness. Your songs will live forever. You can rest easy now. – Sammy Brue
To me, Justin Townes Earle was next in a long line of piss-and-vinegar, do-it-my-way artists. Bending genres to fit their personal demons, Justin, his father Steve, Townes Van Zandt and more all made names for themselves in a type of music that is often criminally underappreciated. It’s not quite blues, although all the composites are there. It’s not exactly folk, but the messages of blue-collar working people are well-represented. It’s not “country” enough for Nashville’s music machine, however, too down to earth for either coast. It’s Americana – the music of the people, by the people and for the people, if you will. And Justin was a master purveyor.
Earle is survived by his wife of seven years, Jenn Marie Maynard-Earle, and their three-year-old daughter Etta St. James Earle. No cause of death has yet been released.