I hope to God that Steve Earle is making a bit from his boy Justin, because the fact is without that last name—and the middle one that evokes Townes Van Zandt—we’d be looking at another traveling troubadour that goes through your town relatively unnoticed.
Thanks to his worthy pedigree, Justin Townes Earle is getting some recognition, not necessarily unwarranted, but unusually heavy considering the rootsy draping. You see, there are a lot of other artists that, it could be argued, are more deserving of the same amount of attention. Particularly when you consider the amount of miles they’ve laid ahead of the younger Earle and the amount of notebooks they’ve filled with words that Justin’s still striving for.
Be that as it may, Justin Townes Earle’s second full length The Good Life is a fine slice of Americana that wistfully refrains that old-school country found on pre-transistor radios tuned in to the AM drift of weekly Grand Ole Opry broadcasts. And with lines like “I’ve got pockets full of money / Hear it jingle when I walk” (“The Good Life”), you’ll be checking the liner notes to see the issue date. I’d be willing to bet that Justin has more plastic in his pocket than coins and it’s that type of backwoods romanticism that makes The Good Life a bit cheeky in some places. Let’s not forget that the Opry has moved a few times in its own history to keep up with the times and that’s a serving metaphor for Earle to follow. It’s fairly easy and, on occasion, novel to pay homage to the music of the past, but to use its power and apply newly constructed imagery on its canvas could evoke some pretty strong possibilities.
Like on “Who Am I To Say,” when Earle boldly takes his own troubled past into consideration before offering advice to another troubled soul. This modern-twist while still incorporating Earle’s love of back-porch arrangements is exactly what The Good Life needs more of.
Fans of his namesake(s) will enjoy it. Fans of roots music will enjoy it. But if you’ve ever heard the passion behind those originals that Earle tries so hard to emulate, you’ll understand how The Good Life could have been so much better.
MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “Hard Livin'” from The Good Life