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JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE —KIDS IN THE STREET (New West)

 

www.newwestrecords.com

 

www.justintownesearle.com

 

Produced by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit) at his ARC Studios in Omaha, it the first time Earle has ventured outside for a producer and removed himself from Nashville to record. It works perfectly. There is no musical hangover or any fallout. Non-whatsoever! As Justin Townes Earle nails every single song like only he can. 

 

A full decade has passed since JTE started out on his journey as a full-time recording act, and with his 2015 albums Single Mothers and Absent Fathers to live up too Kids On The Street had to be something special. Although in the minds of some, myself included, the above recordings weren’t up to his usual standard. Despite what has been quoted in the press. On hearing Kids In The Street I am more inclined to agree more than ever. For here the music is more fluid, as he uses soul and hints of blues in his work, the wonderfully talent Paul Niehaus is ever prominent (pedal steel, electric, acoustic guitar), nothing new there.

Niehaus in joined in the band by Scott Seiver (drums, percussion), Max Stehr (upright bass) and Ben Brodin (piano, electric piano, B-3 organ, pump organ, clavinet and vibraphone). Mogis himself though he is listed among the other players he gets to perform on all manner of guitars, banjo sexto, banjo and percussion. 

 

In all he includes 12-songs, and with his great affinity to working people and those of modest income in particular, JTE speaks of how family meant everything to them. If born in another time I can well imagine Earle living in a house with little but electricity, and running water but no indoor plumbing and a banged up Chevrolet for transport. Few are better at establishing a killer groove. Plus you have his acute observational skills and ability to absorb stories he’s heard. Bring these characters to life alongside Earle’s own remarkable, true-life experiences. Here is an area he will only get better at as years roll by. 

 

His struggles with drug abuse and drink problems have threatened to derail his musical career more than once, and it hasn’t helped his personal life too much. Right now he is settling into parenthood, married life and crafting songs that speak of him looking forward, outwardly, at what is happening (writing about gentrification and inner city strife). ‘There’s definitely an uplifting aspect to this record in a lot of ways, because I’m feeling pretty positive’.

As for the songs the listener is pretty much spoilt when it comes to highlights for the album doesn’t have any lows. The songs are all in and around a benchmark set by him. Few come any finer than “Maybe A Moment” as he speaks of going up to Memphis because there’s nothing doing at home through the week, and of having a bottle in the trunk. Free flowing as the wind, the B-3, mandolin and glorious rhythm help take the listener on the journey. While with horns also at his command he hits plumb centre with “Champagne Carolla”, on going a step farther down the line “15-25” has a lot of soul ease from its veins as JTE once again travels the country. 

 

Chugging along to an early 1960s country rhythm, the beautiful pedal steel and piano adorned “What’s She’s Crying For” could just as easily have come from something written by Harlan Howard or Hank Cochran for Patsy Cline. Looking back to his youth you have “Kids In The Street” as he speaks of the loss of the poorer middle class area of Nashville where he grew up. The mellow feel of the song carries forth to “Faded Valentine”, and with it in turn followed by “What’s Goin’ Wrong” containing tasteful brass, upright bass and pedal steel he skilfully straddles blues, jazz and country like only he can. On getting up a head of steam he produces a typical energised, if there is such a thing JTE creation as the hooky, and a little bit funky and chaotic too “Short Hair Woman” picks up the slack.  

 

Next out of the chute he performs the wonderful acoustic blues cut, “Same Old Stagolee” as he revives music of the past and it fits like a glove. He pretty much stays in the mode with the moody, eerie darkly coloured B-3 decorated “If I Was The Devil”. Free flowing “Trouble Is” has him back in the groove as he spins another JTE treasure, loose and effortless he performs a classy tune as easily as you would turn on the tap at kitchen sink. No one does it better! There I have said it again. “There Go A Fool” closes the album in a fashion like he was raised in streets where you heard nothing but Memphis soul, and not Nashville the home the reported home of country music. 

 

                                                            Maurice Hope       

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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
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14 pts.
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Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
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Acony Records
 
 
Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Independent
GC,RW
 
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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