Steve Earle & The Dukes pay tribute to Steve’s late son, Justin Townes Earle (J.T.), who passed away on Aug. 20, 2020, in Nashville with their new album J.T. The album was released digitally on what would have been Justin’s 39th birthday on Jan. 4, via New West Records.
J.T. finds Steve Earle & The Dukes covering 10 of Justin’s songs — from “I Don’t Care,” which appeared on his 2007 debut EP, Yuma, and a trio of selections from his full-length debut album, The Good Life (“Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving,” “Far Away in Another Town,” and “Lone Pine Hill”) to later compositions like 2017’s “Champagne Corolla” and 2019’s “The Saint Of Lost Causes,” which was the title track of Justin’s eighth and final studio album. J.T. closes with “Last Words,” a song Steve wrote for Justin.
“The record is called J.T. because Justin was never called anything else until he was nearly grown. Well, when he was little, I called him Cowboy,” Steve said. “For better or worse, right or wrong, I loved Justin Townes Earle more than anything else on this earth. That being said, I made this record, like every other record I’ve ever made… for me. It was the only way I knew to say goodbye.”
Watch Steve Earle perform “They Killed John Henry,” “Harlem River Blues,” and “Last Words” for Rolling Stone on YouTube:
100% of the artist advances and royalties from J.T. will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle. While somber in parts, the album is ultimately a rousing celebration of a life lived with passion and purpose. The recording features the latest incarnation of Steve’s backing band, The Dukes — Chris Masterson on guitar, Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle and vocals, Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel, guitar and dobro, Brad Pemberton on drums and percussion, and Jeff Hill on acoustic and electric bass.