Justin Townes Earle, it seems, was destined for greatness. The son of Steve Earle gets his middle name from the great Townes Van Zandt—and has a voice and a stage presence that is more reminiscent of Hank Williams, Sr. than either of those great singers. But when you combine them all together what you get is a powerhouse of an Americana singer—with the demons to match.
There’s been issues with addiction. There’s been fairly public fall-outs with friends and fellow musicians. There was that time he punched a woman in Indianapolis. But, what we have now is a cooler, calmer, married and expectant father Earle. And Earle seems to have even made peace with his own father, appearing in the elder Earle’s Sirius XM radio show last week.
And his music now seems to be reflective of that sea change in Earle’s own personality. Take, for example, his newest release Kids in the Street (available to stream on NPR’s First Listen—for now). It’s a work that builds on Earle’s country credentials and then takes it to the next level, blending blues, dixieland and even pop styles for what has, in early reviews, been hailed his breakthrough album—one reviewer went so far as to compare it to Springsteen’s Born to Run. I thought that was Harlem River Blues, but maybe the rest of you haven’t been paying as much attention.
And while it’s the first released track “Champagne Corolla” that has been getting all the attention for its clever lyrics celebrating a clear-headed woman (“She can go a week on just one tank,” Earle says), it’s the “Short Haired Woman” track that has me all atwitter. It takes a grown man to appreciate a woman with a cropped cut, and if this album is any indication, grown up is exactly what Earle is. Finally.
Justin Townes Earle plays The State Room Sunday night. The show is sold out, but you may have some luck at Graywhale locations.