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Justin Towns Earle’s Absent Fathers

TJWEST-JTE

Justin Towns Earle’s Absent Fathers

By Jake Tully

Justin Towns Earle doesn’t bother with any highfalutin introductions when it comes to his records, and one can appreciate that about the Nashvillian singer-songwriter. 2015’s Absent Fathers is no exception to JTE’s candor, nor is it anything but a sublime companion to last year’s Single Mothers. Subtle, yet never verging on stale, Earle’s second installment of grappling with females proves that old habits die hard.

“She said ‘why bother, you’ve nothing left to take/just a tattered heart and if that ain’t broke it’s gonna break’/baby you don’t know so joke’s on you/I still got the blues,” croaks Earle with a honeyed decay on “I Still Got the Blues.” Such is the perfect depiction of the motif of Absent Fathers – Earle’s crooning underneath a cowl of an unaffected man. Yet, one never gets an air of a nebbish young man busking skittishly while saving face. It’s evident there’s a lot of hurtin’ but never does JTE lend a fragile hand and ask for pity.

Much like father Steve Earle, JTE’s songcraft exists in a peculiar zeitgeist. Unaltered by the ravages of (perish the thought) contemporary country, the junior Earle sounds timeless. In his music there is no 2009, 2014, or 2015 country. Earle’s product is prime singing and songwriting operating within the realm of a country aesthetic. JTE has never cared about emblazoning himself “Americana” or “country-folk”; Earle creates and from there the genre decides for itself.

Absent Fathers best showcases both ends of JTE’s impressive pedigree in a manner not yet manifested in such an outstanding display. The marriage of the ever-prevalent pedal steel, willowy guitar and guttural vocals that bring to mind the consummate union of his dear old dad and godfather Townes Van Zandt in our man Justin. The track “Slow Monday Slow Monday” is reminiscent of something out of Earle Sr.’s golden era catalogue, while “Day And Night” is a John Townes flavor indeed.

Justin Townes Earle has yet to disappoint. Despite his (perceived) lack of faith in himself in dealing with inherent vices, JTE is a goddamned good artist. Give me a slightly self-deprecating Earle any day, and I’ll give you one of the best young singer-songwriters working today. Townes Earle takes after his father – instant tastemaking and classic tunes.

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