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Never Mind Timberlake, It’s Justin Townes Earle!!!

The New Now

Everyone loves Justin Timberlake. He was 'N Sync. He's a successful solo artist. He contributed to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. He collaborated with Madonna. He dated Britney Spears, Cameron Diaz, and Jessica Biel, and I'm sure he's moved on to some fabulous other babe now. But never mind all that. Can Justin Timberlake boast about the fact that his father is Steve Earle, that he was named after Townes Van Zandt, and that he covers a song by one of my all-time favorite bands ever, the Replacements, on his new album? I think not. But Justin Townes Earle can because he is, he was, and he did. Check out Justin performing the Replacements' "Cant Hardly Wait" live at Belmont Arts & Music Festival in Chicago in this fan-shot video clip.

The studio version of that fine tune is included on Earle's recently released sophomore effort, Midnight At The Movies, but this singer is more than just a mere interpreter of other's songs. Earle composed the album's other 11 tracks and he's got plenty of stories to tell. As he sings in the confessional "Mama's Eyes," "I am my father's son/ I never known when to shut up/ I ain't foolin' no one....We don't see eye to eye." If you know the younger Earle's story, those words take on additional meaning. Justin was once a member of his father's band, the Dukes, but like his father, he battled substance abuse problems that were so severe they led to his ousting from the band and several overdoses. Fortunately, after one overdose left him in the hospital for several days, Earle was able to clean up his act. Check out "Mama's Eyes" and "What I Mean To You," also featured on Midnight At The Movies, below.

Mama's Eyes

What I Mean To You

As you heard, Earle plays country music, not the kind they sing on American Idol during Music Row week, but real, honest-to-goodness country music. "I don't know what 'Americana' means... or if I'm an 'Americana artist,'" he told Holly Gleason in American Songwriter. "I know this isn't your Daddy's Country. It's your Granddaddy's country. I'll say that. Then lyrically and the chord progressions--those jazzy diminished 7th chords--there's a lot of Chet Baker in there. And Willie [Nelson]."

I've never seen Justin Timberlake name drop Chet Baker and Willie Nelson, but maybe I just missed it. Check out this video for the title track of Earle's debut album, The Good Life, and let me know which Justin you prefer, Timberlake or Townes Earle? And for you more advanced players, do you think this Justin lives up to his namesakes--his father Steve Earle and the late, great Townes Van Zandt?

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