STORY+ Justin Townes Earle
Justin Townes Earle
The Country Boy Takes on the Big City…and Wins
Justin Townes Earle bizzaroiloveyou
Justin Townes Earle probably doesn’t know this yet, but he’s about to become one of the most influential artists of his generation. I don’t mean to imply that he is about to become globally famous or filthy rich. That is in the hands and pockets of others. No, what I mean is that he has taken his own craft by the scruff of the neck and shaken it up good. The result is that he is producing roots, rock and pop music bagged up and ready to go in a complete package. He will attract a diverse congregation gathered together in an inclusive church that hears and gives praise to the song and the human spirit that gives it soul. He will have them eating out of his hand.
There have been tentative outings on record with two, frankly uneven, first albums and a self-funded EP. They contain the sound of a raw, new talent seeking direction. Then came Harlem River Blues and something of a catharsis. Earle seemed to realize that as long as he had the songs, he didn’t need to worry about direction. He could go any way he wanted to and his listeners would still follow.
In case you don’t know, Harlem River Blues was without doubt the unspoken triumph of 2010. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone wanted to know his name, even if the New York Stock Exchange didn’t lose any sleep over its sales figures. Only this time it really was his name they were interested in. It’s a short album but it’s very,very sweet indeed. The title track is a suicide ballad made over as a burning act of deliverance. It manages to contain gospel, pop, country blues and rock n roll and pumps along like a tugboat on the Hudson. Listen out especially for “Workin’ for the MTA”. It seems for all the world like a bit of Woody on the side, but it is in fact a beautifully structured urban folk song for our times.
The release of his new album, Nothings Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, is as uncompromising as it’s title. Don’t expect Harlem River Blues 2 because you’re not going to get it. What you will receive is metropolitan music from a player who is a deep listener too. An urbane Memphis sound dominates but you can’t take Nashville out of the boy. The inflections remain and the fact that he is now a New Yorker also permeates the delivery. It’s as if Southside Johnny had spent time with his country cousins and decided that the Jukes needed a more mellow tone. Perhaps recording in North Carolina also helped to temper the newly found toughness with his more characteristic tenderness. Certainly, The record is a bold move, but it will pay dividends if Earle’s eclecticism pushes him into the arms of a much, much wider audience.
The scrawny kid who once got fired from the band is now master of his own fate. The boy is now a man and his outward gaze to the world is steady, clear, assertive and firm. One thing though that really marks him out as a representative voice is the way he lays his troubles out before us all so that we can share and identify. He’s not looking for sympathy, he’s offering empathy. That is the at the heart of gospel and very near to the roots of all popular music. It lies at the very heart of soul and anyone who offers healing through music will never want for friends.
The Curator 2012 INSTRUMENTAL