Justin Townes Earle
KIDS IN THE STREET
New West Records
The Definitive 21st Century Singer-Songwriter Album.
I’ve got a lot to say about this album and Justin Townes Earle himself; but don’t want to bore you!
Let’s start at the beginning …..I first discovered JTE via a download of YUMA in 2007 and loved the raw way he wrote and performed his songs; and it was only when HARLEM RIVER BLUES was one of my first ever reviews that I discovered his father was Steve Earle…honestly; so I’ve been a fan of Justin’s music for its own worth; without the baggage or lazy comparisons.
First of all, this is his most accessible album since HARLEM RIVER BLUES and shows a new maturity in his songwriting and perhaps even subject matter; starting with the sleazy Rock n Roll opening song Champagne Corolla, which is a timeless doozy of a tune that will light up any room it’s played in.
This followed by a slower more Countrified song called Maybe a Moment; where JTE’s distinctive voice has never sounded warmer or more charismatic…..which actually sums up the whole album btw.
While I’ve loved his deeply personal songs on previous albums; Justin uses his imagination here more than ever before and shows what a staggeringly good storyteller he has developed into.
15-25 opens with a crash and is followed by some cool barrel-house piano before our man slouches in front of the microphone and regales us with an autobiographical look at his younger self; all set to a Rockabilly beat and when her purrs “I never had any regrets” and “I’m kinda lucky I survived” you kinda know he is singing from the heart.
The beautiful title track KIDS IN THE STREET follows immediately afterwards and finds the singer in reflective mood remembering his innocent days in East Nashville then seeing those same streets today.
That old school Rockabilly sound creeps back in when the snappy Short Hair Woman rolls out of the speakers and fills your senses like a sweet perfume; and again on
I’ve always had a hankering for Justin’s bluesy songs, which are few and far between and Same Old Staggolee and the atmospherically Gothic If I Was the Devil which it bleeds into, is a delightful way to spend a 10 minutes and bodes well for the day JTE finally makes a whole album in this ilk.
Which brings me to ‘favourite track’ time. One of the ‘teaser songs’ that has filtered out in the last couple of months closes the record and has haunted me since I first heard it; There Go A Fool hints at a whole new exciting direction for Justin and should be my #1; but when I first heard him crooning Faded Valentines I went weak at the knees; so that is my favourite track here by a Country Mile.
Since Justin Townes Earle first came onto the scene 10 years ago he has never released a bad album; although some of the individual songs have been challenging as he repeatedly bore his soul in public; but here he shows a new maturity in his writing and storytelling. plus at times, a mischievous sense of humour.
Producer Mike Mogis took him way out of his comfort zone in Nashville to record in Omaha and that added ‘edge’ coupled to his recent marriage, sobriety and impending fatherhood appear to have combined to create the album Justin Townes Earle has always been capable of making and will be the one his contemporaries will be judged by. 10/10.
Released May 26th 2017