Justin Townes Earle May Have His ‘Mamas Eyes,’ But He Surely Is His Father’s Son
A lacklustre Justin Townes Earle failed to work his magic at the Glee Club, Nottingham.
In a relatively short career, Earle has undergone various incarnations. He was once described as one of GQ‘s “most stylish men in the world”. This night, he ambled on stage to rousing cheers, in high waisted, half-mast hillbilly trousers, denim shirt, and high school nerd spectacles. The stage lights virtually shone through his fragile, lanky frame. His first two numbers were decidedly and disappointingly shaky, as an initial hesitant vocal was accompanied by a lazy, fluctuating rhythm. Paul Niehaus of Calexico, accompanying on electric guitar and pedal steel, worked gamely to gel with the changes of pace. Not until Niehaus took a rest and Earle abandoned his back-handed, frailing style of playing, revealing his real finger-picking finesse on “They Killed John Henry”, did the show eventually pick up.
Earle wears his heart on his sleeve, and after professing his deep love for his wife, he explained that her father was ill and that he really “wished [he] was back home”. That came across in the show, as he rambled between songs with unfinished stories. He had the weary demeanour of a tired artist who has been on tour for too long, barely going through the motions. Most of the attendant audience had seen his raw energy and skilled delivery at countless shows before, and knew this was not the Townes Earle of old. Introducing “One More Night in Brooklyn”, he confessed his dislike for city life and Brooklyn in particular, explaining that he had moved back to the country. I couldn’t help wondering whether he’d got just a little too comfortable in his rural wedded bliss (he married Jenn Marie Maynard in late 2013), as he lazily back-handed virtually every song, never ever really setting the room alight.
At one point, he confided, he’d been pondering the idea of doing a few jazz numbers in the style of Billy Holliday. “No one can sing the same style of music forever”, he revealed, in his trademark drawl. Some may have wished he would, as his encore, which incorporated the rousing gospel of “Harlem River Blues”, was delivered much like his first two songs — like someone who had grown tired of his own repertoire. Earle failed to connect with his adoring Nottingham audience on this occasion, and maybe he knew it, as he failed to reappear. The usual scrum at the post-show merchandise area never transpired. You could almost hear the tumbleweed blow through the room, as the discerning Nottingham crowd filed out disconsolately. The few that had bought CDs, were clutching copies of the support act, Andrew Combs’ new record All These Dreams. Earle, meanwhile, may have his “Mamas Eyes” but illustrated through the tempestuous fragility of his character, that he truly is his “Father’s son”.
Justin Townes Earle continues his current Tour in the US … For dates see http://www.justintownesearle.com/
Here, Earle shows truly what he’s made of.