Justin Townes Earle at The Melting Point

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There’s just something about Americana music that’s endearing. Maybe it’s the people who play it. Maybe it’s the music itself. Or quite possibly it’s a combination of the two that reminds us of the humble, determined spirit that comprises the culture of both America past and America present. This was certainly the case when Justin Townes Earle partnered with Whatever it Takes and took to The Melting Point stage to raise money for impoverished children and families in the Athens, Georgia area.

Whatever it Takes is an Athens-based organization whose goal is to ensure “that all children in Athens are healthy, safe, engaged in the community and on course to graduate from a post-secondary education.” As openers Eliot Bronson and Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys graced the stage with their guitars it was no surprise that honest, passionate artists such as these were performing for such an admirable cause. Eliot Bronson’s smooth solo vocals had the crowd clapping for more as he gave way to the twangy tunes of Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys. As Byrd and his band crooned their way through violin-led love ballads and harmony-laden lullabies, the floor filled with dancing fans who gave the band the first curtain call for an opener that I have ever seen.

By the time Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys finished playing their well-deserved encore, the crowd was pining for the soulful sounds of Justin Townes Earle. Earle, a singer/songwriter who combines the best of blues with folk and Americana made his way to the stage amidst a rapturous applause. Justin stood alone with nothing more than an acoustic guitar when he greeted the amped Athens crowd. “Let’s see what I can forget the lyrics to tonight,” laughed Justin before opening with “They Killed John Henry,” a song that he informed us was written for his grandfather. Next up was “Memphis in the Rain,” a blues-heavy hit from Earle’s new album Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Earle’s bluesy influences were apparent as he played a cover of Bo Carter’s “Your Biscuits are Big Enough for Me,” as well as Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “My Starter Won’t Start This Morning,” a song that was once performed by Townes Van Zandt, for whom Justin Townes Earle gets his middle name.

As Earle fingerpicked his way through his set, he displayed the same sort of honesty that makes Americana music endearing. He shared intimate stories from his past involving turbulent relationships that he’s been able to transform into songs. Each song was a story, and Earle graciously shared not only the songs with us, but also the stories behind the songs.

“If I drink or do narcotics I break out in handcuffs,” Earle said through a grin as he plucked his way through fan favorites like “One More Night in Brooklyn” and “Mama’s Eyes.” At one point, Earle even stopped playing mid-song to inform the audience that he had forgotten a line. “It doesn’t mess me up when I forget lyrics, because I’m human,” Earle confessed. “I don’t put myself on a pedestal, because I’m only human. That’s what happened to Pete Rose. We put him on a pedestal and he disappointed us. But if ya ask me I think they need to let ole Charlie Hustle in the Hall of Fame for being human,” said Earle. Honest moments like these not only made the evening more intimate, but they made it obvious why Earle is such a talented songwriter.

Earle only briefly left the stage before being beckoned back by the audience’s roaring applause. After plucking and slapping away at his strings, Earle concluded the night with “Christchurch Woman,” a hopeful love song that displays Earle’s ability to tap into heavy heartache and create songs that have both lyrical weight as well as graceful guitar melodies.

Justin Townes Earle exemplifies the endearing honesty of Americana music. His music is reminiscent of a simpler time while remaining hopeful for the future. His honest and vulnerable songs made it feel as though he were confiding in us his deepest hopes and fears. And as he shared his stories, he made us feel as though we were a part of those stories.

 

Hailing from 'The Good Life City' of Albany, Georgia, Colby Pines is the middle child of five boys. While his family is primarily comprised of men, the Pines family did have a female dog once... unfortunately she died... God bless his poor mother. When Mr. Pines was in third grade the doctors discovered that he had an extra bone in his knee. The bone did not possess any magical powers or help Colby run faster/jump higher, so the doctors surgically removed the bone and refused to let Colby keep it as a souvenir. Colby recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in having cool friends and wearing great sweaters. Colby studied abroad at Oxford University's Trinity College where he was able to visit three of the four coasts, but was not able to bring back a baby with a British accent. Colby enjoys going to the movies, scotch, traveling, playing folk music with his band, BirdHead, eating good and bad food, writing, dabbling, playing Fantasy Football with his Pigskinz and Sundee Beerz League, reading a great book, and all sorts of music. While Colby has a bit of a bipolar taste in music, some of his favorite bands include: Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie, 2pac, Washed Out, Johnny Cash, Childish Gambino, Local Natives, The Beatles, Danny Brown, and Beach House. Colby is currently single and quite possibly ready to mingle. Colby has broken five bones, saved two children from drowning, been to Canada twice, and almost fallen into The Grand Canyon once. While he tends to miss things like Breaking Bad, eighth grade, Hey Arnold!, and Surge soda, Colby's excited for the future where he hopes to continue writing and doing the things that he loves.

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