Thank You JTE

By now most people in our alternative country realm have paid tribute to Justin Townes Earle. I wasn’t going to, I just figure far more qualified folk than me have or will say their piece and I don’t need to contribute. But in the last week, revisiting the catalogue, it is impossible to separate or deny the influence his song-writing has had on my own. On first listen to anything I do, it may not be so recognizable but dear lord that man had a heavy hand in the evolution of Ben Leece as a writer. Many years ago my friend Dan Phelan raved about the guy. I was only just getting into music of the honky persuasion and Dan, knowing I was a disciple of Westerberg, recommended I check out Midnight At The Movies, an album featuring Replacements’ tune ‘Can’t Hardly Wait.’ I did. I fell in love. I was 11 when I first told my parents I’d written a song and wanted to perform it at the upcoming St Alban’s church recital. They had no idea. Cute. When I first listened to Midnight At The Movies I’d been writing ‘songs’ for almost 20 years – through all my phases. Grunge, punk, metal, rap rock (yep, I’m cringing too) but I had no idea what I was doing. Certainly through that MySpace era of the early 2000s I was simply imitating influences. If I heard something I thought sounded cool, or looked cool I copied it. I didn’t know why it was cool – in hindsight a lot of the rubbish I listened to and imitated was in fact anything but cool. I’m not sure there was a light bulb moment per se and there were certainly other albums that started to churn a curiosity, but I do recognize that Midnight At The Movies was one of the first records to make me really think about the inner workings of a song. The play on words, the sleight of hand layering lyric and line. The value of economy in words, putting a listener in a scene evoking imagination without giving it all away. Now there are plenty of ‘great’ songs and like everything it’s up for personal interpretation, but for mine, Track 4 on this record, Mama’s Eyes, is one of those ‘great’ songs. I have a personal relationship with its sentiment because like the song I crave the traits of my mother and, despite my denial, have inherited plenty of my father’s. There is a song on No Wonder The World Is Exhausted called Apple Tree and it is absolutely my interpretation of Mama’s Eyes. There’s examples of JTE influence littered throughout BL songs and I probably shouldn’t ever give these kinds of secrets away, but credit where it’s due right. Vale Justin Townes Earle. Thanks for the lessons.
‘I still see wrong from right, cause I’ve got my mama’s eyes’ – JTE
‘I pray for her eyes and the bright side she see, if the apple don’t fall too far from the tree’ – BL

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