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      Justin Townes Earle in Portland

      • Justin Townes Earle Photo #1
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      November 3, 2019

      Sunday   8:00 PM

      1300 SE Stark St
      Portland, Oregon 97214

      Justin Townes Earle

      with Jonny Two Bags
      Justin Townes Earle has done a lot of living in his 37 years. For starters, theres the quick-hitbullet points about his childhood that seem to get dredged up in every interview, article orreview about the singer-songwriter and guitarist: Born the son of Steve Earle, who was largelyabsent during Justins childhood; struggles from a young age with addiction and numerousstints in rehab; long stretches of itinerancy and general juvenile delinquency; a youth he oncesaid he was lucky to have gotten out of alive.Thats before we get to the years spent honing his craft in Nashville bars and on club stages allover the world; the various bands, record labels and industry types that have been drawn towardand, at times, pushed away by him; and, finally, the celebrated and rather formidable body ofwork he has amassed since releasing his critically-acclaimed 2007 debut EP, Yuma.Its a seemingly bottomless well of material for a singer-songwriter to mine out of just threedecades or so of life. And Earle at times hasmost recently on his 2017 album, Kids in theStreet, which the artist calls one of the more personal records Ive ever made.But when it came to his newest effort, The Saint of Lost Causes, Earle, these days sober, marriedand father to a baby girl, chose to focus his gaze outward. Maybe having a kid has made me lookat the world around me more, he says.As for how he felt after doing that?Frankly, I was horrified, he says bluntly. Although, he adds, I already sorta was, anyway.Make no mistake: theres nary a party, PBR or pickup truck to be found in any of the 12 tracks onThe Saint of Lost Causes. Rather, Earle is focused on a different Americathe disenfranchisedand the downtrodden, the oppressed and the oppressors, the hopeful and the hopeless. Theresthe drugstore-cowboy-turned-cop-killer praying for forgiveness (Appalachian Nightmare) andthe common Michiganders persevering through economic and industrial devastation (Flint CityShake It); the stuck mother dreaming of a better life on the right side of the California tracks(Over Alameda) and the Cuban man in New York City weighed down by a world of regret (AhiEsta Mi Nina); the used up soul desperate to get to New Orleans (Aint Got No Money) andthe sons of bitches in West Virginia poisoning the land and sea (Dont Drink the Water).These are individuals and communities in every corner of the country, struggling through theordinaryand sometimes extraordinarycircumstances of everyday life.I was trying to look through the eyes of America, Earle says. Because I believe in the idea ofAmericathat everybody's welcome here and has the right to be here.Earle tells these American stories in detail and without judgement. But he also lays out his pointof view right from the start. The Saint of Lost Causes kicks off in stark fashion with the titletrack, on which JTE, over a desolate soundscape of acoustic guitar, deliberate snare hits andmoaning pedal steel, presents a harsh vision of the world in plainspoken, almost biblical terms:"Got your sheep / got your shepherds / got your wolves amongst men, he intones, beforeasking, Throughout time / between the wolf and the shepherd / who do you think has killedmore sheep?That's kind of like the spooky leftist conspiracy theorist in me, Earle says with a slight laugh,before turning serious. But the fact is, if you look around, we live in a time where one of thenumber-one threats to an inner-city black youth is a police officer. Its just bizarre. So I thinksometimes how we forget how animal we are. We look at ourselves as this sort ofhigher-functioning being, but we miss the mark quite often at being civilized and such.He points to another track, the slide-guitar-and-harmonica assisted Dont Drink the Water(Folks gettin sick, talkin women and children / ask the man on the stand what he thinks killedem), as a further example of mans disregard for his fellow man. Several years ago one of [coalCEO and former Republican primary candidate for Senate] Don Blankenship's companiesleaked a bunch of chemicals into the river outside of Charleston, West Virginia, and theres stillareas where if people take a bath theyll get lesions on their skin, he explains of the songssubject matter. We live in the richest per-capita country in the world, and we have people whocan't bathe in the fucking water. Much less drink it.While that song and others like Flint City Shake Itwhere, over a boogie-woogie rhythm, Earlechronicles the decline of the citys once vibrant auto manufacturing industry (Then troublecome in 86 / this son of a bitch named Roger Smith / cut our throat with the stroke of afountain pen)cite historical events, other tracks present fictionalized narratives that are noless harrowing or true-to-life.Take the haunting Appalachian Nightmare, on which Earle spins a first-person account of howa landscape of little opportunity combined with a few bad decisions can quickly lead to apremature, and literal, dead end. It's a fictional story, but it's a story we've heard a milliontimes growing up in the South, he says. I remember back in the late Nineties we had what theycalled the Oxycontin Wars, which was, like, hillbillies armed to the teeth robbing the shit out ofdrug stores. People went buck wild and it destroyed a lot of lives.But Saint of Lost Causes is not all doom and gloom. There are also moments of calm, bothmusically and lyrically, where Earle pulls back to admire the beauty of the world around him. Onthe languid Mornings in Memphis (one of my favorite songs on the record), he watches thesun rise, takes a stroll down Beale Street to the banks of the Mississippi, and, finally, standsalone under a sky full of stars where all he can do is try not to think / just listen to my heart.He offers a similar, if more jocular ode to his surroundings on Pacific Northwestern Blues,where the Nashville-bred Earle, now relocated a few thousand miles west, laments only beingable to drive 20 miles an hour due to the regions notoriously rainy conditions. Were moving soslow / Im about to lose my mind, he complains over a loping Western swing accompaniment.Says Earle with a laugh, I've been living in the Pacific Northwest for a while, and Ive realizedthat, you know, the weather really does suck up here!Earle may call the Pacific Northwest his home these days, but when it came time to record TheSaint of Lost Causes he headed back to Music City. I always say, If you want whores andgambling, you go to Vegas. If you want to make records, you go to Nashville, he reasons. Earleco-produced The Saint of Lost Causes with his longtime engineer Adam Bednarik, and likewisebrought in musicians that that hes known for years, among them guitarist Joe McMahan, pedalsteel player Paul Niehaus, drummer Jon Radford and Old Crow Medicine Show keyboardistCory Younts. I'm realizing that as I'm getting older and grumpier and set in my ways, I justmuch more enjoy making a record on my own terms and with people I know well, he says.To that end, Earle also worked at a studio he knew well, even if he had never actually recordedthere before. Sound Emporium is a facility steeped in music historyit was opened by CowboyJack Clement in 1969 and has hosted country luminaries like Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogersover the yearsand also Earles own childhood. I grew up in that neighborhood, and as a kid Iused to ride my bike through the Sound Emporium parking lot, he says. It was always an activeplace in the neighborhood. So it was great to finally be able to record there.As for where Earles sound, which on The Saint of Lost Causes spans everything from traditionalcountry, blues and folk to western swing, roots-rock and boogie-woogie, fits into the largercountry music picture beyond Nashville?I see it the same way that Gram Parsons did, he says. Theres this idea of moving forward andplaying with newer sounds and different modes, but at the same time making sure you keep onefoot firmly planted in the past as you feel out the future. I think its really important to leave atrail, you know? Put down some breadcrumbs behind you.Hes similarly resolute when it comes to his lyrics. Ask Earle whether he is at all concerned thatthe bold stance he takes on The Saint of Lost Causes might raise the country-musicestablishments hackles, and he can only laugh in response.I've never been opposed to pissing off all the right people, he says matter-of-factly. But I see ittwo ways: If you don't like what I have to say politically or anything like that, just don't read myinterviews. But you're never going to go to my shows and hear political spiel from me. We'regoing to play songs and have a good time, because that's what the show is all about.But you know, he continues, I'm a disciple of the Woody Guthrie school of thinking aboutmusic. I figure its always better to just go ahead and tell people the truth.On The Saint of Lost Causes, Earle proves himself a songwriter and artist who is unflinching andunequivocal in his truth.

      Cost: 25.00

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