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Harlem River Blues

Rate It! Avg: 4.5 (528 ratings)
Harlem River Blues album cover
Harlem River Blues
One More Night in Brooklyn
Move Over Mama
Workin' for the MTA
Slippin' and Slidin'
Christchurch Woman
Learning to Cry
Ain't Waitin'
Rogers Park
Harlem River Blues Reprise
Album Information

Total Tracks: 11   Total Length: 31:27

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Wondering Sound

Review 15

Kevin O'Donnell


Kevin O'Donnell has worked as an editor at Rolling Stone and SPIN and his writing on music, books and pop culture has been published in the Washington Post, NPR...more »

Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues
Label: Bloodshot Records

Since his debut EP in 2007, Justin Townes Earle has established himself as one of the best (and, sadly, underrated) new singer-songwriters, delivering three lovely sets of country- and folk-steeped tunes about Southern belles, road trips to Jackson and mythical working class hero John Henry. The 28-year-old has had some big expectations to live up to: Justin's the son of Steve Earle and was named after legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Sure, he… read more »

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yes yes yes


Released on my birthday! Thanks for the ear candy Justin. Love it, yes I do indeed, LOVE IT. P.S. The reprise is my favorite part of the album and worth one credit no problem!!! Oh yea- thanks e-music for getting me to this wickedly talented man.

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JTE finds his voice

Con Carne

Wow. JTE's best yet. All of his previous releases were great listens. Great song writing, good choice of covers, excellent musicianship, but...his voice seemed to be emulating past greats, especially Hank. Not so here. The songs are top notch and the younger Earle sings with an easy confidence and a voice all his own. Daddy should be proud.

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just got it


and still absorbing but very impressed

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Wow, what a talent


This acorn is gonna be an oak as mighty as the tree it came from! His voice is his own, it's the authenticity that he shares with his dad.

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J.T.E.? You've Done It Again!


This is an album that will still be fresh and new twenty years from now. Sweet!

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Do you think...


....blowing a credit for a 32 second reprise is going to stop me from DL'ing music this sweet? Not Bloody Likely!!!!!

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More Than A Legacy


I liked his previous work and thought he had potential, Well, this album is proof of that. This guy could be at least as big as his dad.

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Move Over Mama


I CANNOT stop groovin to this damned song!

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keeps getting better and better


Three albums out, this dude is better than ever. Songs that you will be listening to over and over: Harlem River Blues, One More Night in Brooklyn and Christchurch Woman.

eMusic Features


New This Week: Madonna, Mirel Wagner, Billy Hart & More

By J. Edward Keyes, Editor-in-Chief

Madonna decided to wreak a little havoc by releasing her 12th album, MDNA, yesterday instead of today, which caused a host of other acts to do the same thing. To which I say: NICE WORK, SHEEP. We'll forgive you this time. Here's what I found. Tell me what I missed in the comments. Madonna, MDNA: Madonna's 12th album finds her reuniting with producer William Orbit on several tracks, teaming with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on another… more »

They Say All Music Guide

Justin Townes Earle’s previous records were promising — if uneven — offerings that revealed a considerable talent trying to find his own musical identity as a songwriter, apart from his parental heritage. It may have taken him three albums, but Harlem River Blues delivers in spades what his earlier offerings only hinted at. With co-production by Earle and Skylar Wilson and the backing of a killer, intuitive band, the songwriter drops 11 weighty originals steeped in American musical tradition yet bearing his own inimitable lyric and stylistic signature. The title track is an electrifying rockabilly-cum-truck-driving shuffle adorned by slapping bass, guitars, snare and cymbal, and a Hammond B-3. Despite the upbeat tempo and finger-popping rhythmic thrust, Earle’s lyrics reveal the protagonist’s intention to commit suicide by drowning. With a country gospel vocal chorus complete with handclaps on the refrains, the lyrics and music are intriguingly at odds; somehow the sense of near gleeful purpose in the protagonist’s view — revealing a sense of relief at the prospect of release from this plane of existence — makes the tune gell. On the breezy summertime groove of “One More Night in Brooklyn,” the Tennessee backwoods meets the urban street corner, led by guitars, a skeletal drum kit, Wilson’s vibes, and a popping upright bass. “Move Over Mama” is a scorching rockabilly-and-reverb number, full of erotic bravado à la Warren Smith or Billy Lee Riley. (And does that bass ever get slapped!) “Wanderin’” captures the spirit of early Bob Dylan under the influence of Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie, but the lyrics and sense of necessity and acceptance of the situation at hand are pure Earle. With a country fiddle added to the mix, you can also hear traces of early string bands and even the ghostly presence of A.P. Carter in the refrains. The horns on “Slippin’ and Slidin’ marry the late Eddie Hinton’s brand of Muscle Shoals R&B to laid-back country rockabilly. The narrative love song “Christchurch Woman” is among the moving things here; Earle’s vocal is underscored by a female backing chorus and organic instrumentation that also includes beautifully arranged horns — as if Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train” or “Jersey Girl” were filtered through Memphis R&B and Waylon Jennings’ early-’60s country. “Ain’t Waitin’” is a rockabilly blues, so skeletal it could be played on the back porch. Anyway you cut it, Harlem River Blues is utterly balanced, skillfully crafted, and exquisitely written and produced. Earle proves that he is a force to be reckoned with; in these grooves he embodies the history, mystery, and promise of American roots music. – Thom Jurek

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