Live Review: Justin Townes Earle

15 April 2015 | 4:57 pm | Naomi Keyte

"If you get an opportunity to see him play live, please don’t pass it up."

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There’s something incredibly likeable about Justin Townes Earle – and its kind of counter intuitive, given he is one hell of a cynical guy. He opened his sold-out show at the fitting Grace Emily with a tirade about the disintegration of all music genres, cussing to his heart’s content. 

Townes Earle is something of a bemusing musician. His guitar work is deceptively simple, at time purposefully clunky but at others intricate. He plays in that lazy, behind the beat, honky-tonk way that just screams Americana and yet there’s something so modern about Townes Earle. When he sings he swallows his words and drifts off at the end of phrases, yet, despite this, he’s incredibly expressive. In conjunction, these elements make for an awfully good performance, helped by the fact that there’s something so authentic about his delivery. Not only did he give all of himself in his songs, his banter was personal, witty and intelligent and there was plenty of it. 

Something of an old man in a young man’s body, its evident Townes Earle has lived hard and suffered. Songs like When The One You Love Loses Faith, from his new LP, Absent Fathers, are achingly sad. As was his rendition of an older song of his, Mama’s Eyes, which must have brought tears to more eyes than mine. Absent Fathers was recorded alongside his previous release, Single Mothers, but rather than being released as a sister album as planned, this record stands well and truly on its own feet. 

Justin Townes Earl is an individual. He plays guitar unlike anyone Ive ever seen, sings like no one Ive heard and talks to his audience in a way Ive never witnessed. If you get an opportunity to see him play live, please don’t pass it up.