Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#663 in the Series) is Justin Townes Earle, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (Bloodshot Records)– NEW MUSIC REVIEW
When your father is one of the best singer-songwriters in the business and you are named after another about whom Steve Earle once said “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that”, the expectations are very high, and with his most recent release for Bloodshot records, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, Justin Townes Earle, the son of Steve Earle and the step-son of Allison Moorer, has emerged in his own spotlight and has himself poised, willing, and able to become “The Next Big Thing.”
With this album, recorded with a live feel over a span of four days in a converted church in the North Carolina mountains, the pedigreed artist has slightly changed his sound from the almost Townes Van Zandt – like, somewhat Spartan, somber songwriting approach to a more upbeat four piece band style with more than a few dashes of soul thrown into the mix courtesy of some tasty Memphis style horns. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a dance record, the soul influences are not over-emphasized, but rather are delicately sprinkled throughout the songs adding a perfectly balanced measure of spice. Think Al Green not James Brown.
Sometimes you have to be emotionally torn down to be brought back up a better person, and that is exactly what J.T. Earle does for the listener throughout these proceedings, and nowhere more so than on the first track on the album “Am I That Lonely Tonight” where he almost literally takes his heart out of his chest cavity, places it on his sleeve still pumping blood, and says “Here, Deal With It”. Containing overt references to his famous father, you aren’t really privy to all off the family dynamics at play here but you clearly get the message loud and clear. Here is a boy 300 miles from the Carolina coast, and he misses his father that he doesn’t talk to enough for reasons that are not exactly made clear and left up to the listener to surmise.
The other side of the family dynamic comes into play with “Look The Other Way”, a stunner of a song about a man trying to make amends for past misdeeds and searching for a way to prove in 2:27 of anguished soul baring that he has changed, “mama you’re never going to notice if you look the other way” pretty much says it all.
The title track “Nothings Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now” followed up with the more upbeat “Baby’s Got a Bad Idea” along with “Won’t Be the Last Time” almost completes the “I’ve done and said some things that I regret, but I am a better man now” song cycle portion of the album.
His inner Tom Waits is channeled on “The Lower East Side”, a song that showcases Earle’s ability to mood-create in his songs. You can almost see him leaning against a lamp-post, cigarette dangling from his mouth with his pork-pie hat slightly askew as he tells the listener about how life is on the Lower East Side.
The finest and most upbeat song on the album “Memphis in the Rain” features some fine subtle horns with a hint of a Hammond organ playing in the background.
For me, after several critical listens of this album, it has gone from pretty good, but not as good as Harlem River Blues, to I like it better than his previous album, all the way to a coming out party, if that’s possible for an artist that has won the Americana Emerging Artist Award, the Americana Artist of the Year, and was voted one of the 25 most stylish men in the world by GQ magazine.
Overall, the vocals are crisp with a distinct style that is sharp, pure and perfectly complements the stories they are telling. The writing is tight, biting, and devastingly truthful. The style change is the sign of a confident artist that four albums in is not afraid to create art for art’s sake. If Dylan can go electric Justin Townes Earle can certainly add a few horns and show a little Stax soul influence.
It can’t be easy choosing the same road as your namesake that some consider to be the best songwriter that ever lived, or having a father that is one of the founding fathers of the Outlaw Country movement, and here we clearly are shown the ramifications and pitfalls of this daunting pedigree. As they say, it is not how hard you fall, but how fast you get up that shows the measure of a man, and now that dragons have been slayed, some demons exorcised, truths told, and souls stripped way down to the bone, the time is not long in coming where someone just might stand on Bruce Springsteen’s coffee table and proclaim that Justin Townes Earle is one of the best songwriters that ever lived.
If this album is any indication, that time might come sooner rather than later.
Below you’ll find Track listings, Personnel listings, a short video, 2012 tour dates and a stream of the album.
- Am I That Lonely Tonight? – 3:04
- Look the Other Way – 2:29
- Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – 3:04
- Baby’s Got a Bad Idea – 2:06
- Maria – 2:35
- Down on the Lower East Side – 3:06
- Won’t Be the Last Time – 3:11
- Memphis in the Rain – 2:26
- Unfortunately, Anna – 3:40
- Movin’ On – 4:41
- Justin Townes Earle – Guitar, Vocals
- Bryn Davies – Upright Bass, Bowed Bass
- Jon-Paul Frappiér – Horn Arrangements, Trumpet
- Vince Ilagan – Clapping
- Paul Niehaus – Electric Guitar, Steel Guitar
- Bryan Owings – Drums
- Geoff Pfeiffer – Saxophone
- Amanda Shires – Clapping, Fiddle, Tambourine, Vocals
- Skylar Wilson – Clapping, Organ, Piano,,Tambourine
- Cory Younts – Clapping, Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion, Piano. Tambourine, Vocals
Justin Townes Earle — 2012 Tour Dates
March 10 North Adams, MA MASS MoCA
March 15 Little Rock, AR Rev Room*
March 17 Austin, TX SXSW – Stubb’s
March 20 Mobile, AL Callahan’s (SOLD OUT)
March 22 Savannah, GA Savannah Music Festival at Lucas Theatre†
March 23 Live Oak, FL Suwannee SpringFest
March 29 Bloomington, IL The Castle Theatre
March 30 Iowa City, IA Mission Creek Music Festival
March 31 Cascade, IA Ellen Kennedy Fine Arts Center
May 3 Houston, TX Fitzgeralds*
May 4 Austin, TX Antones*
May 5 Dallas, TX Club Dada*
May 7 Minneapolis, MN Varsity Theater*
May 8 Madison, WI Barrymore Theatre*
May 10 Chicago, IL Park West*
May 11 Columbus, OH The Bluestone*
May 12 Toronto, ON Opera House*
May 13 Buffalo, NY Town Ballroom*
May 14 Northampton, MA Pearl Street Nightclub*
May 16 Boston, MA Somerville Theatre*
May 17 New York, NY Webster Hall*
May 18 Alexandria, VA Birchmere Music Hall*
May 19 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts*
May 20 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage*
May 22 Richmond, VA Botanical Garden*
May 23 Asheville, NC Grey Eagle*
May 24 Knoxville, TN Square Room*
May 25 Roswell, GA Roswell Cultural Arts Center‡
June 1 Chattanooga, TN Track 29**
June 2 Nashville, TN The Ryman**
June 3 Morgantown, WV Mountain Stage
June 29 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
June 30 & July 1 Laytonville, VA Kate Wolf Music Festival
July 3 Portland, OR Aladdin Theater
July 4 Vancouver, BC Rio Theatre
July 6 Seattle, WA Showbox at the Market
*with support from Tristen
†co-headline with The Head and the Heart
‡with support from Joe McGuiness
**co-headline with Todd Snider
Live on David Letterman 03/28/12