Justin Townes Earle

Where to start.


Once upon a time there was a legendary Nashville singer-songwriter named Steve Earle.


Among other magical things, he produced a son named Justin. For the purpose of this gig review we can assume that the young Justin Townes Earle had a musical childhood in its purest form.


After pissing off every girl in Tennessee he moved to a slightly bigger small town, namely NYC. He's now covered in tats and wears Buddy Holly spectacles. Oh, and he also makes amazing music, the kind of music it feels kind of naff to write about really.


Touring the country with his second solo release Midnight at the Movies, he dropped in to Hobart's Republic Bar & Cafe to impress us with his caramelized country blues. Ah man, you should have been there.


With his deep southern accent and razor sharp wit, Townes-Earle had the audience in the palm of his hand before he strummed a single note. Honestly, I was a bit ashamed I'd even questioned coming to a `country' gig – as the nearly two hour show was way more than that.


A simple description of the second generation singer-songwriter's sound would be a mixture of Johnny Cash's storytelling with Ryan Adams' bluesy timbres. Bending and bobbing with each song from the new record, the sound of Townes Earle's high held Gibson gave me the odd goosebump, particularly with the numbers, 'Midnight at the Movies' the hilarious ‘Poor Fool'.


As much as the country loving crowd loved his honkey tonk blues, it was Townes-Earle's slower ballads which displayed the depth of his vocal range, and his respect for silence.


I may have mentioned Townes Earle's wit. Big call, but If Qantas had of lost his gear on his journey south, I would've still popped along to see him converse with the crowd. The stories he told in the lead up to each whimsical number made the experience even more special.


JTE on family: "Mom was really tall, she hit dad a lot... and got me with some frozen peas once. Dad married eight times, so he really knew how to piss off a woman. Think I inherited that trait. Bit of advice; never marry a woman who has a six inch reach on you.'' (The sweeping ballad ‘Mama's Eyes')


JTE on city living: "I used to live in Brooklyn... but for the record Brooklyn is NOT part of New York. It's a terrible place. There's no good dope there either, I promise. Brooklyn aint' Disneyland people. JTE on love: "You know, every relationship has a top of the hill and a down of the hill. This song's about the top... (launching ‘What I Mean to You')


JTE still on love (he had a fair bit to say on this subject): "Now, most folk would say it takes two people to make a relationship, well ours had a third. She was amazing... and I don't regret it at all because it helped me get out of a bad situation. So yeah, this one goes out to whatsername or whoever it was. (‘Someday I'll be Forgiven For This').


After a nearly two hour set, the admiring crowd was treated to two more numbers in the encore, Townes Earle paying tribute to the respected bassist Chris Feinstein (of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) who passed away late last year. The song was ‘Can't Hardly Wait' and it was one of those live music moments I'll probably never forget: rich, smooth vocals full of yearning and just a spoonful of angst.


Believe the buzz. Justin Townes Earle is on the edge of big things this year. It was pretty sweet of him to come to Hobart actually. At $35 a pop it may have been one of the Republic's more expensive shows to date, but it was worth every dime.

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