Steve Earle has had his troubles in life, particularly where drink and drugs are concerned. In 1994 he served 60 days in jail for heroin and cocaine possession. He’s had his demons and his addictions to deal with and these days he’s clean and healthy and still making great music.
Sadly it seems that some of those demons and addictions also affected his son Justin Townes Earle (the titular “J.T.”) who has been quoted as saying "I discovered very fast that my way of doing things was going to get me in trouble, and I kept going with it, because I believed the myth for a long time, and I believed I had to destroy myself to make great art.”. Tragically in August 2020 Justin passed away due to an accidental overdose of fentanyl laced cocaine, at the age of 38, the same age that his Dad got clean.
“J.T.” is Steve Earle’s tribute to his son, 10 of Justin’s songs recorded with Steve’s band The Dukes plus one new song about Justin to finish on. He has made similar albums of the songs of Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker but this he made because he had to, saying recording the album “wasn’t cathartic as much as it was therapeutic”. I wasn’t at all familiar with Justin’s music so for me this was a poignant introduction to a writer about who his Dad said “He was a way better singer than I am, a way better guitar player, technically, than I am” and bear in mind I’m a massive Steve Earle fan.
I’d urge you to listen to “I Don’t Care”, “Maria”, “Far Away In Another Town”, “The Saint Of Lost Causes” and the rollicking “Harlem River Blues” (“Tell my mama I love her, tell my father I tried”), either Steve or Justin’s versions, great songs all. But the one I’m going to link you to is Steve’s lone original song on the album. On that night in August 2020 Justin had called his Dad and they talked about the sons addictions and how, when he was ready, his Dad would help him get well. “Do not make me bury you” Steve recalled in an interview “And he said, ‘I won’t”. The conversation ended “I love you” and Justin replied “I love you too”…have a listen to “Last Words”…
“Now I don't know what I'll do, Until the day I follow you, Through the darkness to the light, 'Cause I loved you for all your life…”
Last Words - https://youtu.be/RR2XPOYqSZI