Justin Townes Earle: Tear For Tear, Without Peer

Apr 17, 2012
Originally published on April 17, 2012 6:03 am

On his first three albums and one EP, Justin Townes Earle has used his gorgeous old-fashioned country voice to document an ongoing anthology of such malaise and such longing — not to mention a goodly portion of suicidal meditation — that, by a tear-for-tear measure, he has no contemporary peer. Following in the footsteps of such previous titleholders as Hank Williams Sr., Robert Smith, Sinead O'Connor and Elliott Smith, Earle must now be considered the reigning heavyweight champion of Down in the Dumps. His fourth and latest album, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, makes a strong defense of the title, and "Look the Other Way" marks a cool, canny step in a new direction.

While the words add up to a grave lament — he's broke and busted, and she won't even look at him in the street — the upbeat tune feels like a party. A wiggly, Stax-esque bass line carries most of the weight as Earle spills his agitation, a crisp rhythm guitar flutters around in between and a tight little horn section chips in here and there. It's a decidedly funky evocation of misery, a blues for driving with the top down if ever there was one.

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