Those familiar with Justin Townes Earle won’t be surprised that the rambunctious crooner has yet again changed his style. The junior Earle (son of Steve) has explored the breezy early Americana folk realm (sophomore LP Midnight at the Movies), foot-stompin’, church choir rockabilly (Harlem River Blues), and most recently dabbles in soulful, jazzy folk with Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now.
Earle has always been the epitome of restlesshis lanky frame crooked over his guitar, dapperly dressed, divulging his checkered past of drugs, rehab, and family feuds through well-crafted songs. Perhaps this albums tone coincides with Earle turning 30, but the songwriting on Nothings Gonna Change is more ripe and at peace than his previous work. His offering is far from stagnant, for Earle still maintains his ability for compelling, simple storytelling. Here, muted trumpets and laid-back rhythms soften the southern gentlemans snarled approach. Its a watered-down Earle, perhaps more than wed expect, but it works.
Am I That Lonely Tonight? sets the tone for the album, trumpet and sax flowing behind Earles quiet musings of being far from home. Its a different man than we heard on Harlem River Blues; the rough and assertive songwriter offers more emotion and honesty. Maria chronicles a broken relationship over a buoyant horn section and swaggering guitar lines. Wont Be the Last Times lyrics own up to drunken missteps and reconsider the choices of its author, a pedal steel-punctuated ballad that confesses, When I was young, I was dumb and I was free.
Memphis in the Rain showcases the citys namesake sound with more familiar Earle territory, smoldering organs and backing vocals. Though its a change of pace, Earles third album is a natural progression for the songwriter, perhaps best summed up by album closer Movin On: 30 years of runnins left me standing with my back to the cold/And its left me most days wondering if Ive ever really learned a thing at all/Trying to move on.
Essential Tracks: Maria, Wont Be the Last Time, Memphis in the Rain, and Movin On