JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Midnight at the Movies CD - Bloodshot

Justin Townes Earleís second full-length holds a broader palette of style than last yearís The Good Life. Midnight at the Movies is an altogether poppier and more focused affair, although it never strays far from a solid grounding in the kind of roots music you might expect from a son of Steve Earle, whose middle name is a tip of the hat to Townes Van Zandt. Those names could well prove to be an albatross for even talented progeny, and itís pretty clear that father Steveís shadow continues to be a concern for Earle fils, even though his recordings thus far have worked on establishing distance and separation. The man names Patty Smith, NRBQ and Billie Holiday among his influences, although itís safe to say that he does not wear these on his sleeves. And little on Midnight at the Movies recalls the muscular roots rock and angry protest which comes to mind anytime Steve Earle is mentioned, either. Still, "Mamaís Eyes" is a song of intimate observation fraught with great psychological moment, as Earle narrates the tale of a son struggling with identity and the need for differentiation from Dad, recognizing even while doing so that certain commonalities are inescapable. It could be Earleís story, or any young manís. "Someday Iíll be Forgiven for This" is a heartbreaker of a piano and string ballad, a tale of the conflicted ending to a relationship. In "They Killed John Henry" Earle plays with two legends of American folksong, the hard-working title character, and the early 20th Century union organizer Joe Hill. This track, which is at heart a vow to escape the all too common fate of working men, is one of Midnight at the MovieĎs high points. And a down-home take on The Replacementís "Canít Hardly Wait" shows that Earle is a sensitive interpreter. Iíd say his career is dead on track at this point.

By Michael Meade

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