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Justin Townes Earle, Robert Ellis & Jack Carty - Byron Cultural & Community Centre

Justin Townes Earle, Pic by Stephen Booth
Feb 17th 2013 | Steve Bell
The theatre of the Byron Bay Community Centre is a small, impossibly intimate round, where even the worst vantage point seems almost in the performer's pocket. Young Sydney-based troubadour Jack Carty grew up in nearby Bellingen and seems delighted to be indulging in a homecoming of sorts, appearing barefoot and unkempt as he begins to unveil a steady flow of narrative-driven tracks. Everything, Unhappily, Giveth And Taketh Away and the poignant Travelling Shoes are highlights, and while a tad overwrought at times, the set is a fine precursor to what's about to unfold.

Emerging Americana proponent Robert Ellis claims to be under the weather tonight for the last show of his first Australian sojourn – he's being whisked away following this set to support Richard Thompson in the UK – but it doesn't seem to affect his performance one iota, his honeyed voice and intricate fingerpicking during opener Westbound Train setting the scene for a spellbinding performance. On a borrowed guitar because the hot weather has wreaked havoc with his own, the affable entertainer shows that he's part of the authentic country lineage with his dextrous skills and strong songs such as Comin' Home, Two Cans Of Paint and the lyrically Weezer-esque No Fun. A great cover of Randy Newman's Marie at the tail-end of the set completely seals the deal.

Just Townes Earle is looking very boho tonight in his flat cap and thick glasses, but he's oozing charm and engaging from the outset as he kicks off with the jaunty Memphis In The Rain. He seems in great health and spirits and delivers a moving personal introduction to They Killed John Henry, quickly moving on to affairs of the heart with touching renditions of Look The Other Way and Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now. It's fantastic seeing him operate in solo mode from such close quarters, the singer completely at ease and effortlessly charismatic as he delves into his by now considerable catalogue and plucks out a bluesy version of Ain't Glad I'm Leaving, the moving Mama's Eyes and the gorgeous Unfortunately Anna. Earle's between-song candour is completely disarming as he whips through Harlem River Blues, One More Night in Brooklyn, Christchurch Woman and Down On The Lower East Side. He harks back to the 1920s with Jimmy Cox's Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out and makes it his own, before finishing the set with a touching new song and the evergreen Wanderin'. The besotted crowd beg for more and Earle eagerly obliges, returning to make everyone's night complete with Halfway To Jackson, Rogers Park and Dwight Yoakam's Close Up The Honky Tonks. Road trips are made for nights of music this good.


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