Justin Townes Earle’s forthcoming album, “Nothing’s Ever Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now,” a Pre-Listen Review
Oringally posted on my Posterous Blog
Justin Townes Earle’s newest album, “Nothing’s Ever Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now,” is due out tomorrow, March 27. While it has garnered some good reviews, I can’t help being put off by the cover art, which does not exactly scream alt-country. It has a decidedly urban feel. Is that Earle on the cover (the art work is way too small for small devices) and what’s with the goofy hat? But I guess I should listen for once to some childhood advice and withhold judgment until I actually hear the tunes and not judge the album (if you’ll excuse the cliche) by its cover art.
I was late to JTE fandom. (JTE is the insiders’ way to say his three-part name.) He seemed to have arrived on the folk/alt-country scene a few years ago as the annointed one, as if his heritage and famous name guaranteed him — demanded even — attention and adoration. It’s not his fault, mind you. He wasn’t making any demands or acting the part of the privileged class of children of famous performers. It was, if anything, thrust on him. But fair or not, I bristle when told that I have to love something or someone (which explains why I don’t own any Apple products). Consequently, for several years, I actively avoided the younger Earle while the rest of the folk and alt-country world went gaga for him. Considering how small that world is, that was no easy feat.
I wasn’t able to avoid him forever, though, and I happened to catch — by accident — a pre-release listen to Earle’s 2010 album, “Harlem River Blues.” I actually thought I was tuning into something else at the time, but when I heard the opening title track, I was hooked. Earle’s songs on that album are smartly written with compelling lyrics and just the right amount of production to frame Earle’s outstanding voice. The title track,”Harlem River Blues,” “One More Night in Brooklyn,” and “Working for the MTA,” are the standout tunes and, two years later, are still in my regular rotation of songs. It is, in my estimation, a brilliant album and quite an achievement for a man so young. (Born in 1982, he is only a few years older than my daughter.)
My experience with “Harlem River Blues” is the reason for my trepidation over “Nothing’s Ever Gonna Change,” since it appears to be everything “Harlem River” is not. From a conceited title, to a trying-too-hard-to-be-hip cover, it appears to lack the maturity of “Harlem River.” I can’t see the guy on this new cover promising his wife that he would get out of Brooklyn no matter the cost because the ceiling is falling in on the baby. I also can’t see him finding the honor in the work-a-day family tradition of running trains for the MTA. The guy on the new cover is moving TO Brooklyn if it will make him look hip to the chicks on the subway, even if the ceiling is falling in. He’s actually moving into the apartment the Earle of “Harlem River” moved his family out of. And he would certainly never admit that his dad was an engineer on the subway where the cover art photo was taken.
Maybe — hopefully — my impressions of Justin Townes Earle’s new album will be wrong and I’ll find it just as smart and perfectly produced as “Harlem River.” We’ll see.
And if I do like it, maybe I can learn to appreciate Apple products, too.