Monday, November 1, 2010

Justin Townes Earle

November, 2010: One of the gigs that always appears on my very short muso-C.V. is the one where I supported Justin Townes Earle at the Annandale in 2008. That night, I managed to resist the general bewitching that he performed on all the girls in the audience. I thought, "Yes, he's an amazing performer, but his songs aren't that great." No matter how bewitching a performer, most solo artists, especially when you don't know their material, will start to sound very repetitive after forty minutes, let alone at the end of a ninety-minute set. But I recently heard a new song of his on Felicity Urquhart's 'Saturday Night Country' radio show, so I legally-downloaded* the album with the voucher I was given for being in Heat Nine of The Telstra Road To Tamworth. At first I said, "It's okay, but the songs are a bit samey, and I think he needs to get out and have a life, because the songs are either about being constantly on tour, or else lonely nights on tour, or problems that occur at home because you're constantly on tour." Then, after listen number two or three, something happened. I suppose it was the bewitching. Certainly, the songs on Harlem River Blues are very simple, almost entirely structured with 1, 4, 5 chords, and featuring oft-used (potentially hackneyed) phrases and words and themes - "wandering", "troubled mind", "Tell my father I tried". But something creeps in. His gnawing loneliness? And so he becomes a companion of the moment. "I've always been a fool for a conversation and a couple of smokes. And when I'm feeling this low I just need someone to laugh at my jokes." Apparently he is one of the world's twenty-five most stylish men. So it does occur to me that this album is predominantly style, and in a year, we will all have discarded it for the next stylish album. I hope not!

JTE looks rather tired and discouraged in a lot of his videos, presumably due to overwork, but here's one where he seems happy:

For the sake of contrast, here's one where he looks sick of the whole business:

*This legally-downloading business has been fun: I like Kasey & Shane's Rattlin' Bones and The McClymonts's first album, and at first I liked Teddy Thompson's A Piece Of What You Need but then it lost me.