Two More From Justin Townes Earle (Music Review)

Midnight At The Movies cover

Justin Townes Earle – Midnight At The Movies

The opening track to Justin Townes Earle’s Midnight At The Movies is probably the closest he has ever gotten to sounding like his father Steve. Taking on the persona of a soulful man honest enough to realize what a loser he is, Earle tells a brief alt-country story about the lost souls who sit by each other in a lonely theater. But after that, Earle parts ways with his father, delving into the bluesier sound that he is known for. And as usual, the songs don’t quite fit the youthful singer.

In some ways, this has the same message as my review last year in which I looked at one old and one new Earle album: He’s an excellent songwriter who seems too young and innocent for the soulful, heartbreaking works he is drawn to, but who has started to find the right balance in his newer songs. However, neither of the albums this time around appeal to me as much as the previous round. Midnight At The Movies, Earle’s older album, aims for a style even more deep and sincere than The Good Life did. There are some great songs – I especially like “They Killed John Henry” and “Someday I’ll Be Forgiven For This” – but even those best ones don’t feel quite right. This is almost worth buying for the quality of the songwriting, but it feels lacking throughout. Maybe Earle can re-record all his early works in twenty years. That would probably be a masterpiece.

Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now cover

Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

His new one, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, also fails to hit the highs of Harlem River Blues. Earle should be praised for his willingness to experiment with each new album, but his decision to play with a “Memphis Blues” style this time moves it away from the more personal feel of his last work. (That’s not to say it isn’t personal. The lyrics seem more directly about his life than ever before, with “Movin’ On” touching on the parts of his life that keep him restless, and “Won’t Be The Last Time” taking responsibility for a run-in with the police. It just doesn’t feel as personal, thanks to the hint of affectation in Earle’s chosen style.)

Earle does continue to grow into his folk-blues style, so much so that those tracks now feel more right than the rock experiment of “Baby’s Got A Bad Idea”. He’s getting there, and continuing to write some great songs. I expect this album to age fairly well, but I also expect his later works to far surpass it.

Midnight At The Movies: C+

Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now: B-

 
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