Not only is Harlem River Blues the third album in three years for Justin Townes Earle, it’s his
third winner in a row. That’s a prolific streak that should be the envy of his
contemporaries (not to mention his father Steve).
Sort of a survey of American roots music, the record finds
Earle moving with confidence and grace through rockabilly (“Move Over Mama”),
R&B ballads (“Slippin’ and Slidin'”), old-fashioned C&W (“Learning to
Fly”), blues rock (“Ain’t Waitin’), triple-A singer/songwriter rock (“Christ
Church Woman,” “One More Night in Brooklyn,” “Rogers Park”) and Woody Guthrie
folk (“Working For the MTA,” “Wanderin'”). Earle and co-producer Skylar Wilson
maintain consistency through clean, dry production that keeps the focus
squarely on the tunesmith’s plainspoken voice and bullshit-free songwriting.
Though it doesn’t have the focus of his shimmering sophomore
set Midnight at the Movies, Harlem River Blues still moves from
strength to strength.
More Night in Brooklyn,” “Slippin’ and Slidin’,”
“Move Over Mama” MICHAEL TOLAND