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Justin Townes Earle at The Ark, 3 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2019

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The son of Steve Earle, named partly for the late Townes van Zandt, Justin Townes Earle's musical pedigree was locked pretty much from birth.

The Tennessee-born singer-songwriter has delivered on that promise, too, logging occasional time with his father's bands and releasing nine mostly critically acclaimed albums since 2007, including this year's "The Saint of Lost Causes." He's also an Americana Music Award winner, produced Wanda Jackson's 2012 album "Unfinished Business" and has a performing track record that includes the Grand Ole Opry, Bonnaroo, South By Southwest, the Newport Folk Festival and many other notable stops.

And at just 37, this Earle feels like he's only at the beginning of a long run...

• On "The Saint of Los Causes," Earle says that "I wanted, for the first time in my career, to look at social problems in America. I think people misunderstand Bruce Springsteen as a political writer; I think he's more of a social writer. He writes about social problems, people problems. And I wanted to approach it like that. If there's any time in my lifetime where we need to do this, then this is the time."

• Earle's subjects on "The Saint of Lost Causes" include the Flint water crisis ("Flint City Shake"), the flagging coal industry in Appalachia (which his father is also writing about in an upcoming musical, issues in south central Los Angeles and the lower east side of New York and more, with observations drawn from his troubadouring travels. The goal, he says, is to demonstrate that despite seeming differences, these social problems are actually uniting factors in the country. "I don't think people in Flint, Mich., and Charleston, W.Va. think they have anything in common, but they do -- a lot in common. These are people who have driven American through an industry and then had America completely turn their backs on them. So I see that connection there. You see distinct cultures and distinct things in different towns, but they're dealing with the same kinds of problems."

• It is, by its nature, a protest album, but Earle says politics are not his priority. "Basically, I'm not gonna write a song called "Mr. President' and talk directly to any politician or anybody who I feel doesn’t listen. I'm not gonna waste my breath. I'm gonna talk to the people, WE the people, and do my best as a songwriter and somebody who's up on stage performing to still feel like I stand amongst them and make them feel like I stand shoulder to shoulder with them."

Justin Townes Earle and Jesse Malin perform at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. $35. 734-761-1800 or theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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