Album Review : Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers

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For those of you that don’t know (although there’s a clue in the name) American singer/songwriter, Justin Townes Earle, is the son of Steve Earle, although he’s certainly not in his father’s shadow. Single Mothers is the title of Justin’s new album, released 22 September, on Loose Music. Ten tracks of love and regret, with My Baby Drives an obvious hit pick for radio; it’s cut three, and it motors along on a warm engine.

The opener, Worried About The Weather, is melodic and tuneful, bringing in a cold front, which establishes the blue tones on this album. Next up, the title track, Single Mothers, is equally country-chilled. Today And A Lonely Night is mournful, and lonely, with “not a star in the sky” and a brilliant composition. Picture In A Drawer is full of pain.

Song six, Wanna Be A Stranger  picks up the beat a little, and White Gardenias shuffles along with sadness. Time Shows Fools is somewhat of a relief, as it jumps right in! With two tunes to go, I’m already concluding that there’s far too much sadness on this record to be appealing beyond Earle’s stalwart fans (of which I’m one), and, those that love Americana music (as I do). Mainstream crossover seems to me, unlikely.

It’s Cold In This House is a quiet number nine, and with track ten, even a burst of energy from Burning Pictures has arrived too late. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having soft and low on an album, and Justin’s singing / playing is highly professional throughout, however, I feel that Earle’s tendency towards being a tortured soul have bogged it all down.

In effect, Single Mothers has od’ed on melancholy, and ain’t that a shame.

Mark Watkins