|Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2012)|
Justin Townes Earle — Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
Location: Nashville, TN ~ New York, NY
Album release: March 27th, 2012
Record Label: Bloodshot Records
Runtime with 11 tracks: 33:58
Genre: Blues / Country / Soul
¶ Justin Townes Earle is a ramblin’ man. The son of a hard-touring musician who’s become a hard-touring musician himself, he’s moved from Nashville up to New York, and from there to London, with countless stops and shows in between. But his heart and soul remain rooted in Tennessee and its many musical forms: old-school country, hardscrabble Appalachian folk, rowdy rockabilly, and sturdy rural blues. For his fourth solo album, he traveled – spiritually if not physically – down I-40 to Memphis, to absorb some of the Bluff City’s soul.
¶ Many artists have made the pilgrimage before him, but most – including Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper, and Huey Lewis – hew either too closely to local sounds or not closely enough. Earle didn’t hire local soul legends, as Cat Power did for her excellent 2006 album The Greatest, but he does add some slow-burn horns borrowed from Stax and some Beale Street rhythms inspired by W.C. Handy. It’s all grafted onto Earle’s trad-country sound, which hearkens back to a previous era in Tennessee without really leaving the here and now.
¶ Perhaps the most obvious shout-out to the city is “Memphis In The Rain,” an upbeat number that thrums with determined energy, thanks to that rippling organ and jumpy horns. Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now doesn’t sound like Memphis, but it does feel like Memphis, which shows some admirable restraint as well as a deep understanding of the city as a crossroads between so many disparate musicians and traditions.
¶ And yet, especially for such a restless musician, this collection sounds strangely slight and inert, lacking the impact of 2010’s Harlem River Blues. Earle himself sounds ragged and tired, as if he’s singing after a few sleepless nights. Too often the tempos lag and the music plods uncharacteristically, despite so many compelling musical flourishes: the muted trumpet solo on “Down On The Lower East Side,” the spiky guitar riffs on “Movin’ On,” and especially Bryn Davies’ rambunctious basslines, which sound like horn charts played on an upright. They can’t quite revive “Unfortunately, Anna,” which sounds as lifeless and condescending as a Counting Crows track, and the album ends abruptly with “Movin’ On,” which is not quite the valedictory its title might suggest.
¶ But Earle is a frank and careful songwriter, and even when the album drifts, his unflinchingly self-assessing lyrics command attention. Bad behavior has always been a subject in rock and country, yet few artists today are writing with such awareness of the consequences: estrangement from family and friends, creative and professional missed opportunities, romances that are over before they begin, and a generally fatalistic outlook on life. On “Am I That Lonely?” as the horns swell and fade like a sympathetic friend, he hears his father’s music on the radio and wonders if he’d actually welcome a call from his old man. On “Look The Other Way,” he promises a woman – either his actual mother or a lover he refers to as “mama” – that he can change, even though he knows she’s long past caring.
¶ Earle knows enough to write about his own demons in terms broad enough that anyone can relate. So when he sings, “Maybe I broke myself a promise that I never intended to keep,” on “Won’t Be The Last Time,” perhaps he intends it as a comment on his recent troubles – the botched show, assault charges, and rehab stint in late 2010 – and perhaps he trusts his listener to grasp the implications of such a confession. ¶ Somehow, Earle never comes across as self-absorbed or self-loathing; he neither makes excuses nor judges himself too harshly. What makes Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now such a harrowing, albeit minor, addition to his catalog is how matter-of-factly Earle presents himself. Wherever he goes, he’s both his own worst enemy, but that defiant honesty remains his most compelling trait.
01. Am I That Lonely Tonight [3:04]
02. Look the Other Way [2:29]
03. Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now [3:04]
04. Baby’s Got a Bad Idea [2:06]
05. Maria [2:36]
06. Lower East Side [3:06]
07. Won’t Be the Last Time [3:11]
08. Memphis in the Rain [2:26]
09. Unfortunately Anna [3:40]
10. Movin´ On [4:41]
11. So Different Blues [1:52]
12. Darling, Darling, Darling (bonus track) [3:35]
13. Automobile Blues (bonus track) [4:25]
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By MICHAEL McCALL / For The Associated Press / March 27, 2012
¶ Four albums ago, Justin Townes Earle introduced himself as good-time rake who warned women about his rambling ways with a wink and a pinch. His music — a jaunty update on old-time acoustic music steeped in swing, blues and mountain hoedowns — perfectly matched his playful persona.
¶ Now 30 years old, and not far from a rehab stint, Earle sounds as if he’s reckoning with his wayward ways. Even his lengthy album title, “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now,” acknowledges that some burned bridges may never get repaired.
¶ Always a gifted songwriter and guitarist, Earle deals with the consequences of his actions with an album of self-examining songs set to low-key yet lush arrangements featuring somber brass accents. His voice remains packed with emotion and personality, but it has more range and takes more risks, as he whispers, slurs and moans like a midnight caller.
¶ His self-written songs, each as strong as the next, deal with family history, with the way loved ones shade the truth to each other, and with the downhill side of love and friendship. Somehow, through the confessionals and dark stories, a powerful light shines through.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On “Look The Other Way,” Earle reveals to a loved one that he’s as down-and-out as can be. Singing like a sweet soul man, Earle — behind a subtly rhythmic arrangement pulsing with horns like red neon flickering on a rainy street — gently suggests that avoiding a discussion of his difficult issues isn’t helping either of them.
¶ On a rainy Nashville Thursday last October, Justin Townes Earle leapt onstage at the famed Ryman Auditorium to accept the 2011 Americana Music Award for Song of the Year. The triumphant evening capped a turbulent twelve months for the gifted young musician categorized by significant hardship as well as notable achievement including debut performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and on The Late Sh...ow with David Letterman.
¶ Just one week later, Earle retreated to the western mountains of North Carolina to record his next album, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now - an intriguing title given the importance of change in Earle’s approach to art. “I think it’s the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learning more,” he says. “The new record is completely different than my last one, Harlem River Blues. This time I’ve gone in a Memphis-soul direction.”
¶ Those who’ve followed Earle’s growth since releasing his debut EP Yuma in 2007 won’t be surprised he’s shooting off in another direction. For an artist whose list of influences runs the gamut from Randy Newman to Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker to the Replacements, and Phil Ochs to Bruce Springsteen, categories are useless.
¶ “Great songs are great songs,” Earle says. “If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place.”
¶ Perhaps then it’s also not surprising Earle chose a converted church in Asheville, NC to record Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Recorded completely live (no overdubs) over a four-day period with Harlem River Blues co-producer Skylar Wilson, the album sheds the rockabilly bravado of previous records in favor of a confident, raw, and vulnerable sound. Says Earle, “the whole idea was to record everything live, making everything as real as it could be, and putting something out there that will hopefully stand the test of time and space.”
¶ The result: songs like “Down on the Lower East Side” and “Unfortunately, Anna” are equally timely and timeless. The former finds Earle channeling his Closing Time era Tom Waits while the latter echoes the dirges of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. That said, gentle heartbreakers like the album’s title track and “Am I That Lonely Tonight” are uniquely Earle, solidifying his role as one of this generation’s greatest songwriters.
¶ Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now comes out March 27th via Bloodshot Records.
|Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2012)|