Justin Townes Earle (yes, he’s Steve Earle’s son and yes, that is Mr. Van Zandt he’s named after) has a lot to live up to-or live down, depending on whom you’re talking to. He’s had his own bouts with his own demons (would you want to be Steve Earle’s son in this business?) and he’s coming out with some damn fine music despite them – or more likely, because of them. Either way, good music speaks for itself.
Earle was said to have started out wanting to make an old-timey Country record with his new release, The Good Life. But in taking in the whole package, it seems his poetic soul wouldn’t be denied, peeking out in stages with good ol’ raw acoustic accompaniment. The result is a blending of retro honky-tonk and folk with bits and pieces of his father and the gent he was named after thrown in.
Some of the cuts are straight-up-country-and I mean Ernest Tubbin’ Country, like the introductory “Hard Livin’ ” the crooning “What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome” and (yes, the lonesome is a tad redundant) “Lonesome and You.” His vocals are understated and vulnerable, and at times carry a surprising sweetness. A developing vibrato in his lower register suggests that the 25 yr. old’s voice will get richer as time goes on. My favorite pieces tend to lie in the acoustic, free-flowin’ melancholy vein as in “Turn Out My Lights”, and “Lone Pine Hill”, the latter of which is an is artfully done tale of a civil war soldier and arguably best cut of the bunch.
The honest simplicity of Earle’s writing (and delivery) carries the integrity of a man who makes his music his own way while casually brushing off the usual comparrisons his name inevitably initiates. The Good Life isn’t political or controversial, it doesn’t have cock-sured raisin’ hell lyrics-and I say THANK GOD. It is an artistically soulful well-made record, raw and real. Justin Townes Earle is his own man with his own sound and on his way.
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Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.