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Harlem River Blues is a self-professed master's study in traditional Southern-music forms: gospel, folk balladry, blues, honky-tonk, even soul. Set against the backdrop of New York City, where Earle now resides, it's the opposite of an identity crisis. It's identity creation. "I'm not a country artist," he asserts, with equal scorn for the watered-down distillations of alt-country on the left and pop country on the right. "I do occasionally write songs with a traditional country format, but I just don't ever, ever, ever want to be stuck in one format of music."

Yet for all his eloquence, when this troubled artist starts talking about his problems with drugs and alcohol, you hear someone with way too much experience doing just that. "I have a long history of issues with drugs and alcohol, and they rear their ugly head up sometimes. I don't get disappointed when I do fuck up, because that's my natural state."

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE + JESSICA LEA MAYFIELD | Royale, 279 Tremont St, Boston | December 17 at 6 pm | 18+ | $17 | 617.338.7699 or

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  Topics: Music Features , Music, Paul Westerberg, Drug Addiction,  More more >
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