One of the most poignant scenes in The Godfather Part II is brothers Michael and Fredo Corleone drinking at an outdoor Cuban cafe. Fredo wistfully confides to Michael that he wishes he'd followed a life path closer to his and their late, legendary father's. Michael consoles him, saying, "It's not easy to be a son, Fredo it's not easy." Whenever someone follows in the career footsteps of a notably successful parent, the progeny can face unusually high expectations -- the family name becomes a more of a burden than a door-opener. Ask Frank Sinatra, Jr., A.J. Croce (son of Jim), and Sally Taylor (James 'n' Carly Simon's daughter).
Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Justin Townes Earle is son of Nashville rebel/alt-country godfather (no pun intended) Steve Earle. His middle name is a tribute to the legendary Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, a seminal influence to the senior Earle (and most of the Americana crowd, directly or indirectly). J.T. Earle followed his padre's path perhaps a little too closely, acquiring self-destructive habits resulting in his being fired from Earle Sr.'s touring band. Like his father, Justin gave his demons the boot and got down to business, resulting in a damn fine solo debut, The Good Life. Vocally he conveys only a slight family resemblance -- JTE sounds more like a very young Hank Williams, Sr. on "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome" and "Hard Livin'," both exuding honky tonk swagger and Western swing cool. With its reggae-like lilt and thick, tasty Hammond organ, "South Georgia Sugar Babe" evokes the Band covering a song by Ray Charles (or vice versa). Justin Townes Earle is no "Fredo" or a Steve wannabe -- he's gonna do the name proud.
Thu., March 20, 8:30 p.m., 2008