As long and crooked as one of them cricks running alongside the trains he croons about, Justin Townes Earle is ninety percent legs, five percent charm, and fifteen percent straight-up stank. With talented multi-instrumentalist – and Jeff to his Mutt – Cory Younts, Mr. Earle picked and plucked his way through one hell of a hoe-down last night at The Mercury Lounge. Kid threw it hard, too.
He sounds like a new breed of outlaw. The former drug addict son of a former drug addict (and one of the greatest living songwriters, nay writers alive) sang of addiction and family, skirt-chasin’ and heartbreaks, civil wars and trains in a voice soaked with wisdom well-past his 27 years. Coming off at times like a carnival barker from another era, and with a hunched stature and delivery similar to actor Michael Shannon, Mr. Earle can be downright scary. He held the room hostage. Peering into the eyes of all in attendance, he told his tales to anyone that would listen. While he can cover The Carter Family and The Replacements with equal authority, his own song about a train stood out. “Halfway to Jackson,” recounts the tale of a man who left his woman only to forget about her on the train from Nashville to Jackson. Mr. Earle chortled “which, if you’re familiar with your southern geography would take 20 to 45 minutes depending on how fast you drive.” With old-fashioned repartee, skilled strumming, and an inherited gift for the written word, it was a winning performance. He killed it.
Midnight at the Movies debuted yesterday to a four star review in Rolling Stone. Mr. Earle will tell you himself (he worked his own merch table), this ain’t no sophomore slump. The sucker soars. He’s a true carny but for the fact that when he barks “Yeah, it’s good! Real good” he ain’t lying.