Justin Townes Earle’s second CD, Midnight at the Movies, is not quite country and not quite folk, but it’s as deeply rooted in both of those similar traditions as it is comfortable in its variety, its seriousness, and sometimes its playfulness.
Sounding mature beyond his 27 years, Earle wrote 11 of the 12 songs (covering Paul Westerberg’s “Can’t Hardly Wait”) and shares them in a good, although not particularly polished, voice and is backed by longtime friends and touring buddies rather than by hired studio guns.
Earle isn’t the songwriter his namesake Townes Van Zandt was, but only a handful of writers could claim to be Van Zandt’s equal. Earle’s songs, though, are very good.
The whole feel and sound of this CD is high quality, from the mood-setting and opening title song — nothing, we’re told, is lonelier than midnight at the movies alone again — through the love-at-first-sight closing duet, “Here We Go Again,” performed with touring partner Cory Younts.
On “They Killed John Henry,” Earle shares a different take on iconic American stories. On “Black Eyed Suzy,” he watches from a distance as a woman withers away. “Mama’s Eyes” tells us that he is his father’s son who’s “never learned to shut up,” admitting that “we don’t see eye to eye.”
His father is, of course, the talented and often controversial Steve Earle. On this second release, following early-2008’s The Good Life, the son proves that he doesn’t belong in his father’s shadow.
Justin Townes Earle