Justin Townes Earle ‘Absent Fathers’ - Loose

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.

Justin Townes Earle 'Single Mothers' - Loose.

     Good to find Earle finding a home with London indie label Loose. A label who believe in the music they release and who punch above their weight. For his latest release Earle has found a more personal and slightly introspective space. The album opens with Worried Bout The Weather wherein two people circle round each other and talk about the weather rather than what’s actually on their minds. 
     This is a more personal album and one recorded since he got married and found some solace and happiness in that situation. He still hasn’t lost his anger completely as shown in the title track which is directed against absent fathers and perhaps one in particular. Though there is some comprehension of the causes that create that situation - not forgiveness but not entirely with understanding. Elsewhere the tight band rocks out a little more (My Baby Drives) or cuts the song back to just voice acoustic and steel guitars. Sympathetic in many ways to the expression of the mood for It’s Cold In This House. The album closes with Burning Pictures, an up-tempo song that deals with moving on from the emotional turmoil expressed through burning pictures and breaking frames.
     Produced by Earle with the assistance of engineer Adam Bednarik it has a tight sparse sound that entirely suits this set of songs. Aside from Earle on acoustic guitar and vocals the trio of players includes Paul Niehaus on electric guitar and pedal steel, Matt Pence on drums and Mark Hedman on bass. Simple and direct yet expressive and full of tone. It is perhaps slightly more country than of late but without any of the overtones that that brings and conjours in some younger minds. Today and A lonely Night and White Gardenias finds Niehaus underlying the longing and loss of the songs.
As with most of Justin Townes Earl’s albums these songs require a few plays to get to know them and bring out the melodic depth that he has imbued in them. Single Mothers is a singular success.