Between releasing four full-length-critically acclaimed albums, constant touring, multiple stints in rehab, a new-found sobriety, being born Steve Earle’s son, amicable and not-so-amicable break-ups with record labels, and facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life, it’s safe to say JTE has quite the story to tell.
About Justin Townes Earle
Once compared to a man who wears many suits, in thirty-two short years Justin Townes Earle has experienced more than most, both personally and professionally. Between releasing four full-length-critically-acclaimed albums, constant touring, multiple stints in rehab, a new found sobriety, being born Steve Earle’s son, amicable and not-so-amicable break-ups with record labels, and facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life, it’s safe to say JTE has quite the story to tell. His fifth album (and first ever on Vagrant Records) serves as the perfect platform for such narrations.
Entitled Single Mothers, the album is comprised of ten tracks that showcase exactly why Justin Townes Earle is considered a forefather of Contemporary Americana. As a recently married, sober man JTE writes from a point of maturity and content we’ve not seen before on past records. “One day I just realized it’s not cool to die young, and it’s even less cool to die after 30,” Justin states as he reflects on a life past and his newly found clarity. What he’s created is an album that’s raw, honest and personal in a way he hasn’t touched upon since his debut EP, Yuma.
Co-produced alongside longtime engineer Adam Bednarik, Single Mothers shines in a world of pop-culture driven Americana records. “I don’t really know what Americana means anymore,” Justin laughs. “That’s not a slant on Americana, it’s just become a very unclassifiable genre. It’s gone seemingly pop. There are good parts to that, but it’s getting to a point where it won’t be able to redeem itself if it doesn’t slow down. Just like everything that gets popular.” With his heart and soul still rooted in Nashville, Single Mothers shows Justin’s continued combination of catchy songs and authenticity.
The album was recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment. In fact, his songs “Picture in a Drawer’ and ‘It’s Cold in This House’ are only Justin, his guitar and his pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.
Earle’s new perspective is clear on Single Mothers as it opens with the track ‘Worried Bout The Weather,’ where we see the intimate, sensitive side of JTE. Here Justin rehashes feelings of trouble on the horizon singing “it don’t take a twister to wreck a home, don’t take a night to feel like you’re in the dark and all alone” – a theme that has surfaced before in his lyrics, but this time with a personal honesty and openness. Justin’s mood switches gears on the upbeat track ‘My Baby Drives.’ “My baby drives me to church on Sundays, take me to see my Momma on every other Monday. Some might say I’m the luckiest man alive,” Justin croons light heartedly. On the title track ‘Single Mothers’ we hear feelings of resentment as JTE growls, “absent father, never offer even a dollar, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that he’s forfeited his rights to his own. Absent father is long gone.”
“As I’ve gotten older my anger comes from a very different place. It’s more rational and mature. I guess that comes along with clarity,” JTE reflects. Single Mothers finds Justin dealing with past struggles and anger with more ease than ever before. Creating a nostalgic feeling with the return to his signature sound, JTE takes listeners on a journey through some of his most personal stories yet on what can only be described as an authentic country record.
Reviews of Justin Townes Earle
“Never one to be constrained by the straitjacket of country orthodoxy, Earle infuses his songs with elements of classic soul (Champagne Corolla) and jazz (the delightfully breezy What’s Goin’ Wrong). Best of all, though, is the title track, a moving reflection on the gentrification of the Nashville neighbourhood in which he grew up.”
– Phil Mongredien, The Guardian
“Forming a trilogy with 2014’s Single Mothers and 2015’s Absent Fathers, J.T. Earle’s latest teams him with Omaha indie-rock don Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) for his rangiest set yet. “What’s She Crying For” is a moaning honky-tonk weeper with pedal steel and roadhouse piano, “What’s Goin’ Wrong” is clarinet-spiked Texas swing impressionism, “15-25” is vintage New Orleans R&B gumbo in the Professor Longhair spirit, and “Same Old Stagolee” revives American folk music’s original gangsta to an unlikely vibraphone melody. Yet it always feels organic, never mannered. See the title track, acoustic guitar slicing through a pedal steel reverb-haze, Earle waxing nostalgic for a childhood in the 1990s with a timelessness that could conjure the 1890s just as well.”
– Will Hermes, Rolling Stone