(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Americana music scion Justin Townes Earle, the son of Steve Earle (who sold out his show at MASS MoCA in 2004), kicks off his 2012 tour at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, March 10, 2012, at 8 p.m. Alt-country mainstay Richard Buckner will open for Earle.
Having migrated from his birthplace, Nashville, to New York City, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, who was named after Texas singer-songwriter legend Townes van Zant, pairs the sage wisdom of Americana music with themes that relate to life in the Big Apple. NPR says that Earle’s Harlem River Blues “isn’t a love letter to New York, but on it he accomplishes what the troubadours who came before him from other parts of the country sought: music that defies geography and genre.”
Earle directly confronts the legacy handed down to him by his father, Steve Earle, on the poignant song, “Mama’s Eyes,” on his album, Midnight at the Movies, when he sings, “I am my father’s son/I’ve never known when to shut up/I ain’t fooling no one/I am my father’s son.”
Earle records with Bloodshot Records, which hosts other popular acts such as Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, and JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound (a sensation at Wilco’s 2011 Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA). On March 27, 2012, Earle will release his fifth album, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. In a recent Rolling Stone interview Earle talked about his new direction: “I think that it’s the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learn more. The new record is completely different than my last one. This time I’ve gone in a Memphis-soul direction.”
When it comes to comparisons, the Guardian UK hears “echoes of Guthrie and Springsteen” in Earle. Tiny Mix Tapes says, “Boasting the kind of voice most often found on dust-covered 78s, Earle is undeniably the real thing. His music feels old-fashioned, but in a timeless, not anachronistic, way.”
Earle himself claims to be influenced by artists including Randy Newman, Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker, the Replacements, Phil Ochs, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. “Great songs are great songs,” Earle says. “If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place.”
Accolades for Earle include the 2011 Americana Music Award for Song of the Year, as well as the 2009 Americana Music Awards in the Best New and Emerging Artist category, as well as nominations for Best Artist and Best Album. He was also featured as #8 on Amazon’s Best Country Album list for 2009, with the track “Walk Out” chosen as one of Amazon’s 100 Best Songs. Appearances include a performance on NPR’s Morning Edition, World Café, and the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. The New York Times praises Earle as a “gifted performer in his own right.”
Richard Buckner, who has two decades of experience under his belt, will open, adding another variation on the theme of Americana gone urban. NPR reviewed his most recent album Odd Blood, saying, “The nine songs here provide an excellent crash course in Buckner’s unlikely combination of gifts, most notably his ability to sound bone-tired and weather-beaten at the same time his songs shimmer agreeably.”
Tickets for Justin Townes Earle are $22 in advance and $26 the day of the performance. Members are eligible for a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11 to 5 every day but Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or online at MASS MoCA at any time.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA is an independent 501c(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy. Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and competitive program and operations grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA is privately funded: 90% of annual operating revenues are from earned revenues, membership support, and private gifts and grants.