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Justin Townes Earle

THE GOOD LIFE • Justin Townes Earle

The young son of Steve Earle and namesake of Townes has come into his own in a hurry. With The Good Life he's taken a firm and distancing step beyond the jangly drab of anonymous Americana into the spotlight of legitimate roots music artistry. Whether he reaches into swing, folk, country, or a New Orleans feel, he does so with a sure hand, a believable song, and voice all his own. I don't know that he's got a long way to go, but he's gonna go a long way.

He doesn't sound like Steve, doesn't sound like Townes. Good for him. I caught his act a time or two when he was playing with his group The Swindlers, they were really good, never did catch the more rambunctious outfit called The Distributors. But he has allegedly leaned up his act, which he came by honestly, and it shows big time here. I've run into him a time or two around town, and he's a very personable guy, very likeable. I thought this record was going to be a little more quirky, but it's much bigger and more appealing than that, this is really going to put the man on the map.

Cat stacked the stable, that's for sure. R.S. Field and guitartist Steve Poulton co-produced, except for one track that Steve Earle and partner Ray Kennedy did, "Ain't Glad I'm Leaving." The outstanding Bryn Davies on acoustic bass with the understandably ubiquitous Brian Owings on drums provide the all important rhythm bed to rock upon. Over a dozen greats appear throughout the tracks.

But it's the lyrics that may be most impressive; they sound like a veteran County Bluesman, if you but consider the opening gambit:

 I come home and you can't give me a smile
 I don't know, maybe you think that I'm
 Bound to you, baby, or maybe your fool
 You gotta treat me better than you do
 Cause it's hard livin' lovin' you

And further on, same song:

 Roses are red, violets are little
 Why do you always have to speak in riddles
 Give it to me straight or flat refuse
 C'mon mama, make your move
 I could find somebody treat me better than you
 Cause it's hard livin' lovin' you

We consider the praise we've found for this record to be far too faint. This is a super good record, and needs not only to be heard, but had. Highly recommended.
• Frank Goodman

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