Justin Townes Earle
's soothing, soulful voice is carried gently along by meandering bass lines and earnest guitar picking in his latest release: Absent Fathers
. The collection offers a pleasing mix of blues, alt-country and rockabilly, presented with a clean, contemporary edge.
The album opens with a bitterly frank declaration addressed to the singer's own absentee father. "Farther From Me" displays openly the scars that Earle has been left with as a result of his abandonment at a young age. His vulnerable, sometimes wavering voice hints at a private and intense emotional purge: "I've suffered for your foolish heart and your desperate needs." Earle has held nothing back in the cathartic process, offering raw, stinging lines that evoke sorrowful empathy in the listener: "Coast to coast/Haunted by the ghosts of a childs hopes," is just one particularly killing example.
The focus switches from Father to lover in "Why," a contemplative lamentation of a failed relationship. "So what did I say?/When did you're heart change?/When did you grow so cold?" A surprisingly charming track in that its instrumentation is playfully apathetic, while its lyrics suggest investment and gentle optimism: "Maybe its a blessing/A blessing in disguise/I know Ill feel better someday."
The record's theme remains rather melancholy until "Round the Bend," a real foot-tapping rockabilly romp. Youll find yourself wanting to bust into a spontaneous line dance with any and all persons in your immediate vicinity, and the fun continues with "Slow Monday." It's the obligatory song about doing nothing found on any bluesy collection worth its salt. The airy steel guitar solo makes you want to grab a cold one and have a pleasant daydream. "A Place To Land," beautifully concludes the heartfelt narrative that Earle has managed to dictated with precision on Absent Fathers
. He answers solemn meditations with reassurance and a glimmer of hope: Now I never fly alone/Ive got a place to land.
A casual listen to Absent Fathers
evokes a long drive at dusk down a silent highway, solemnly sipping a beer at an empty dive-bar. It captures the allure of early America: equal parts melancholy and optimism. Earle is honest, vulnerable, and at times scathing in his writing. This is an intelligent, well-rounded album, and an essential listen in 2015.
comes out January 20th on Vagrant Records
. Order your copy here
, and see below to watch our 2010 session with Earle live at the Baeble Guest Apartment.