A companion piece to Single Mothers, Absent Fathers continues in the same vein with a tight trio of musicians notably Paul Niehaus on guitar and pedal steel and the rhythm section of Matt Pence and Mark Hedman. Both albums are being made as a double vinyl album release that will officially tie them together. This second album continues the introspective nature of the songwriting and reflections on the effects of family on a overall outlook to life that the previous album started. While there is the contest between the full band sound on songs like Round The Bend or Farther From Me which themselves offer a tight, concise sound with that of the stripped down voice and pedal steel mediation of Day And Night or Least I Got The Blues the overall approach has been to make the delivery of the songs as simple and direct as possible. The titles of both CDs may give a clue to the origin of the songs inspiration though they are opaque enough to allow for interpretation and individual themes.
It continues Earle’s development as a writer and singer and shows that on each outing he has considered the music that sits behind his words and there has been a different approach to each album to date up to the sessions for these two albums. Earle has co-produced the album with engineer Adam Badnarik and they have allowed the songs a space that is free of gloss and the sanitized sound that is sometimes the hallmark many a more mainstream recording. Real has also created his voice that is an integral and recognisable part of his sound. A slight slurred and entirely captivating instrument that, in itself, is at the core of his music.
The ten tracks clock in at just over a half hour and that makes for a concise mix of folk, blues and country that are appropriate for the sense of the journey from feeling abandoned to a growing resilience and slow recovery from whatever demons were inherent in that upbringing to one where a new sense of purpose and one’s own future is more apparent and approachable. These are not however the type of songs that can be assimilated in an instant but rather need to be assessed over time. Doing that reveals their true value, though those who have appreciated Justin Townes Earle previous work will find that the two albums may well constitute his best work to date.