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Justin Townes Earle - 'Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now'

Released on Bloodshot Records on Mar. 27, 2012

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now

Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now

© Bloodshot Records
Justin Townes Earle's fifth studio album is an inarguably solid collection of soul songs, eschewing his country upbringing and the rootsy Americana sound which spawned him over the past few albums. Sonically, it's a bit of a departure, but the themes of the songs and the lyrical content continues along the same path he's always pursued - that of intensely personal, honest lyricism. These are songs so honest they hurt sometimes. Earle has never shied from writing about some of the most difficult-to-confess emotions like loneliness and shame, and these songs are no exception. But, as usual, he does so with absolute artistry and thoughtful consideration.

An Ear for Soulful Instrumentation

In interviews about this album, Earle has hinted at the fact that he's never been a country songwriter or an Americana songwriter, but just a singer-songwriter. As such, he reserves the right to create any style of music, and this time around he decided to pursue a more soulful approach. That's clear particularly in the instrumentation. The horns are ever-present, as are a solid and steady rhythm section headed up by upright bass player Bryn Davies. The addition of parlor piano on a lot of these tunes makes perfect easy sense with Earle's overall aesthetic.

But, as lush as the horns and rhythm section appear, Earle's vocals tend to fall a little short on this disc, veering often toward poor intonation and wavering emotion. This works strongly on more upbeat tunes like "Baby's Got a Bad Idea" (purchase/download), "Memphis in the Rain" (purchase/download), etc., where the blues is front and center and the grit of the pace seems to call for the tone of Earle's shaky and raw vocals.

On slower songs, however (and the album kicks off with one), his voice comes off like a lanky, stretched-out frame dragging around in a too-big suit. It's hard to listen in those moments, as the pain seems all too real and at the fore, as if he just lost sleep about all this last night. Maybe that's the point - after all, the disc's title (Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now) hints at a certain level of hopeless resignation. But, for more sensitive ears, it causes the disc to come off a bit less listenable than his previous efforts. Long-time fans who have championed his old school country, polished appeal will no doubt bristle at this rawness.

The Bottom Line

It seems Earle is entering a new realm of musicality. His performance here is certainly - and probably necessarily - raw and unfettered. But, the result isn't really the kind of album you crank for a road trip or turn on in the background while you're making dinner. This disc hurts - and you can hear it in Earle's unabashed delivery. You can see it in the coverart and it's a blaring, unignorable truth within the first few notes of the opening song. That the disc ends with a somewhat more optimistic tune called "Movin' On" (purchase/download), doesn't come close to the amount of heartache displayed until that point.

It's not a sunny record, neither in lyrics nor instrumentation, and it will no doubt be an adjustment for those who cottoned to his work through The Good Life, Midnight at the Movies, or even Harlem River Blues (the latter two were, of course, also no frolic in the park).

That said, though, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now is a strong artistic statement from a man who seems to be finding his rather strong artistic voice, away from the traditions which raised him and the unavoidable comparisons to the remarkable work of his father Steve Earle. You may not have this one in heavy rotation this year (or ever), but it'll be a great disc to take out and spin when you need to be reminded of the depths to which music can take you, and from which it can rescue your heart.

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