Justin Townes Earle, Joshua Black Wilkins
Spencer’s Stadium Tavern
Friday, April 20
Justin Townes Earle and Joshua Black Wilkins traded songs Friday night, showing off their unique styles. Both singer-songwriters are based in Nashville, Tenn., and often tour together. This was Wilkins’ first trip to Indianapolis and Earle’s second.
Earle’s voice was extraordinary, as he’s a talented storyteller and a great guitar player. He played songs from his new EP, Yuma, and many more original tunes. His set featured the first song he ever wrote, with all of the requisites for a good roots tune — women, heartbreak and trains. Earle mixed in covers by classic country artists, including Buck Owens, Townes Van Zandt and Blind Blake. When a Guy Clark song was requested, Earle replied, “I don’t play God’s music.”
Wilkins, on tour with his latest recording, “Pretty as a Junkyard,” had a powerful voice and owned every song he played. His songs were hard to classify, but most fell into the country noir range. When a Hank Williams song was requested, he told the crowd he would happily play a Hank Williams song or a Hank III song, but no Hank Jr. It was especially funny knowing that Hank Jr. was also performing in Indy that evening, just a stone’s throw away at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Earle and Wilkins worked well together. Trading songs can be a hard way to play a gig as sometimes one performer is clearly better than the other, but these two pulled it off.