Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Going to Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (2012)

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Credit Justin Townes Earle for refusing to stick with the tried and true, even after his critically acclaimed 2010 release Harlem River Blues shot to No. 50 on the Billboard charts and earned a song of the year award at last year’s Americana Music Awards.

Instead of sticking with that folk-meets-blues-meets-early country formula, Earle and longtime collaborator Skylar Wilson scuff things up a healthy dollop of Memphis soul on Nothing’s Going to Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, a raw and rangy 10-track release due March 27 from Bloodshot Records that was recorded live over four days at an Asheville, North Carolina, studio fashioned from an abandoned church.

Maybe it’s no surprise at all, though, considering all that Earle (son of Steve Earle, named after one of his dad’s principal heroes in Townes Van Zandt) has already done to distinguish himself over four previous albums. He may share a hard-luck lifestyle with the elder Earle, including bouts with addiction and some time in jail, but his is a far more restive, centered muse.

The title track is a laconic, layered lament for the way things change — at once devastatingly sad, and somehow whisperingly boastful. He’s sorry about things, but not sorry about being himself. “Look The Other Way” has the shambling momentum of a Thunder Road ride, with a gravel-gargled Boss-y vocal to match, but then all these other flinty sounds start streaming in — a Steve Cropper-ish guitar, and this grooved mariachi trumpet signature. It ends up sounding like a Stax song filtered through the prism of a lovelorn cantina blues.

“Am I That Lonely Tonight” addresses his father, but as a ghostly specter on the radio — someone interesting in his distance but unknowable, always somehow just beyond his reach. “Won’t Be The Last Time,” meanwhile, is this stark confessional, as deeply introspective as it is brutally honest. “Memphis In The Rain” simply runs through that same dark night, right in between the raindrops, with a sense of impish ambition.

There are, in fact, a series of particular delights here — almost in spite of the expectation in his very name. By the end, Nothing’s Going to Change has offered so many moments of chest-splashing specificity that it feels inauthentic to even mention Justin Townes Earle’s lineage.

He’s his own man, with his own thoughts, his own story. And Earle has the scars, not to mention the dancing girl tattoo on his left forearm, to show for it. Also, thankfully, albums of brilliant, bruised beauty — and of tough-minded, ragged resolve — like this one.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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