Justin Townes Earle’s breakout hit song ‘Harlem River Blues‘ came out in 2010. But as the son of Americana rocker Steve Earle, he was already known in the Southern music scene long before. His newest album, The Saint of Lost Causes, came out in late May. Falling somewhere between a folk, blues and country album, it examines life in America’s shadows.
Half of the song titles on the album cite specific names of cities and regions across the US, from Flint City and Appalachia to the Pacific Northwest. The collection of stories that form the album’s narrative tells about a desperate, struggling class of poor Americans – lacking either money or hope or both. The tracklist alone subtly makes a political statement about the Flint, Michigan water crisis; a song called ‘Don’t Drink the Water’ comes two songs before another called ‘Flint City Shake It.’ Likely a little more than a coincidence.
As the album grows, Earle sings poignantly about the effects of gentrification on ‘Over Alameda’ and the tragedy of drug abuse on ‘Appalachian Nightmare.’ Although very different in structure, these songs uniquely display Earle’s mastery of storytelling. It’s not quite like Virgil leading Dante through Hell, but Earle takes us all around the country and into its consuming shadows 🍑