It’s unsurprising that Justin Townes Earle is as talented a musician as he is. It’s genetic.
Earle — who will appear at Central Park Sessions on Thursday, Aug. 9 — is the 36-year-old son of alternative country legend Steve Earle, 63, and he is like his father in many ways. Aside from the fact Justin spent part of his teen years playing guitar and keyboards in Steve’s band, The Dukes, there are other similarities. Both men are prodigiously gifted songwriters, and each have battled their various demons publicly. The younger Earle even shares a name with his father’s mentor, the lauded songwriter Townes Van Zandt.Before Justin Townes Earle (with help from Canadian cowpokes The Sadies) brings his Harlem River blues to McPike Park, here’s a list of a few other musicians of his ilk: players for whom professional musicianship is the family business.
Joey Armstrong (of SWMRS)
Though the members of SWMRS are all in their early twenties, they’ve actually been playing together for nearly a decade. Formed after being particularly inspired by the 2004 Jack Black film School of Rock, the Oakland-based punks have garnered acclaim for their surf-tinged brand of pop punk, propelled in part by the muscular drumming of Joey Armstrong. And while Joey is an undeniably talented drummer — truly Dave Grohl-ian in his ability to beat the living shit out of the drums — punk rock must come a bit easier when your dad is Billie Joe Armstrong. Unless you moved into an underground bunker in 1989 and have just now re-emerged, you probably know Billie Joe as the frontman for platinum-selling punk icons Green Day. And if you did just leave your hidey-hole, here’s a worn copy of Dookie you should probably check out immediately.
For what it’s worth, I am fascinated by Miley Cyrus. I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a fan of her music, but there’s an unpredictability to her that’s endearing. I mean, how many other pop stars can you think of who have covered The Replacements with Laura Jane Grace and Joan Jett or recorded an album with The Flaming Lips? If only her father, pop country cheeseball Billy Ray Cyrus, could have shared some of her creative openness. The be-mulleted Billy Ray scored one hit in 1992 with “Achy Breaky Heart,” a grating earworm that’s now going to be stuck in your head all day, for which I am truly, deeply sorry. As a bonus, Miley’s adopted brother Trace is also a musician, playing in emo pop footnotes Metro Station.
Born in L.A., raised in Nashville and educated in Denver, Lilly Hiatt represents a growing intersection where country music and indie rock meet. Her 2017 album Trinity Lane (one of my very favorites from last year, FWIW) is a hazy and wistful hangout of an LP, the work of someone raised as much on ’90s alternative as on classic country. Interestingly, her father was much the same. John Hiatt is a heartland rocker, catering in that mixture of country, new wave, and rock and roll that propelled artists like John Mellencamp and Melissa Etheridge to fame. His 1987 hit “Have a Little Faith in Me” has been covered by numerous musicians, including Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Cocker, and *checks notes* Mandy Moore. Lilly Hiatt plays a sold-out show at the Shitty Barn in Spring Green this Friday, Aug. 10, and John Hiatt visits Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater on Aug. 28.
Outside of Miley, Lukas Nelson is probably the most successful musician on this list to date. Along with his band, Promise of the Real, Nelson has recorded six albums, including two collaborative efforts with Neil goddamn Young. And though the California-based country rock outfit seems to keep getting better with each release, they’ve yet to surpass the success and influence of Nelson’s father, the Red Headed Stranger himself, Willie Nelson. Father and son performed together along with Lukas’ brother Micah on 2017’s Willie Nelson & The Boys (Willie’s Stash Vol. 2), where they played an array of country standards. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real can be seen next backing Bradley Cooper’s grizzled country star in this year’s upcoming remake of A Star is Born.
Jay Weinberg (of Slipknot)
Love them or hate them, Slipknot is a very, very successful band. The masked nu-metal crew has released five albums, including four reaching platinum status. Their latest, 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter, finds the band as invigorated as they’ve ever been, largely thanks to the virtuosic, energetic drumming of Jay Weinberg. Formerly the drummer of Against Me! (seriously), Weinberg joined Slipknot in 2014 after leaving Against Me! on less than stellar terms. “Shitbag” or not, Weinberg is a great drummer. And so is his father Max Weinberg, who’s played with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band since 1975. Max was also the bandleader for Late Night with Conan O’Brien for its entire 16-year run, and continued working with Conan during his brief stint hosting The Tonight Show.
I can’t in good faith post a Slipknot song, so here’s Jay playing on Against Me!’s “Russian Spies”: