Justin Townes Earle - Kids In The Street

by James Gerard Rating:8 Release Date:2017-05-26

Justin Townes Earle has built up an impressive back catalog over the past ten years or so, with albums like his critically acclaimed debut (2008’s The Good Life) and 2010’s impressively charming Harlem River Blues, he has skillfully mixed folk, country and blues with a hipster-infused indie-rock aesthetic.  

But with a handful of recent life-changes (namely marriage and a new found sobriety) as well the benefit of simply growing older, Townes Earle’s forthcoming release Kids In The Street bears a reflective stance, embracing the sonic legacy of his namesake (after father Steve Earle’s mentor Townes Van Zandt) in a way he never has before.  

Where there was once reluctance to delve into the well-tread waters of the past, this time around Townes Earle has decided to tackle those ghosts head on, even signing to his Father’s longtime record label.  Working outside of his native Tennessee for the first time, Kids In The Street was recorded with Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis in Nebraska and instantly evokes shades of vintage rhythm & blues mixed with a classic mid-70’s-troubadour vibe as well as a tinge of his Father’s brand of outlaw-country.

Within seconds of the first snare roll that kicks off the driving album opener “Champagne Corolla” it’s clear that Townes Earl has finally shed any remnants of the self-effacing pretense that might have plagued earlier works, choosing instead to fully embrace the unmistakable sound and feel of yesteryear’s Rock’n’Roll.  The formula may be simple, but it’s incredibly effective.  Songs like “Maybe a Moment” and “What’s She Crying For” boast a tight and trim rhythm section, workman-like guitars and generous bursts of horns and piano all in service of Townes Earl’s reflective storytelling.

Where the front half of the album drives, with tracks like “15-25” and the organ-laced “Short Hair Woman” serving as old-school boogie workouts, the second half tends to lie back and simmer, with songs like the title track, the confessional “If I Was the Devil” and the pensive album closing “There Go a Fool” providing some poignant examples of Townes Earl’s abilities as both a singer and a lyricist.

No longer simply another rising-star millennial with a name-bearing ‘golden-ticket’ pedigree, Justin Townes Earle has begun to channel his life experience into his work in a way that makes his tales vicariously accessible to all walks of life (like all the best singer-songwriters tend to do).  Kids In the Street is another welcome addition to an ever-growing body of work; the kind of album that will probably be remembered as turning point for Justin Townes Earl as he grew from an indie-rock rising star into one of music’s elder-statesmen.

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