Steve Earle & the Dukes Credit: Jacob Blickenstaff

Nothing is more precious than the relationship between parent and child, and it’s a hell of a thing when they’re separated by death—especially when the child is the one to go. Justin Townes Earle, the firstborn son of singer-songwriter Steve Earle, was a well-established Americana artist in his own right when he passed away from an accidental drug overdose last summer at age 38. Adult children of iconic musicians have often paid tribute to their parents by performing their music, but Steve Earle reverses that pattern on his new album, J.T. (New West), which features ten of Justin’s songs. (Proceeds from the record will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, Justin’s three-year-old daughter.) Age and experience separate Steve’s versions from Justin’s originals: Justin’s voice had a lively, good-timey feel, but Steve’s grizzled pipes lend the material a whole new perspective. The kicker, “Last Words,” is also the lone song by the elder Earle—and it echoes the sentiments described in the album’s liner notes. While building his own career, Steve watched Justin becoming a musician, evolving from aping Kurt Cobain to trying for something closer to Lightnin’ Hopkins. If you’ve ever had to say farewell to someone you love, “Last Words” is the best kind of therapy, and it’s the perfect way to cap off this emotionally powerful record. Long may you reign, long may you run.   v