Justin Townes Earle’s rise to prominence has been a gradual process of evolution and abuse. His previous issues with drink and drugs have been well documented and, as so commonly seems to be the case, the music benefits from the intoxication of such damaging substances.
2010’s Harlem River Blues saw yet another forward step taken on Earle’s evolutionary ladder, with a metropolitan influenced record that saw him take further strides forward from its predecessor, Midnight At The Movies. Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now – or Nothing’s Gonna Change, for simplicity’s sake – is a record that bears the hallmarks of a Justin Townes Earle record while attempting to push for new vibes.
Earle is an artist who encapsulates the here and now. His music is so often a portrayal of his emotion and sentiments towards the places in which he sleeps and the girls in which he loves. To some it comes across an an introverted, self indulgent approach which sacrifices the listener in order to express the demons that delve deep within Earle’s mind. This record, like no other before in his catalogue, screams of a lost soul constantly on the road to acceptance while never quite reaching a conclusion. It’s a theme that runs throughout as he strives to reach the unquestionable heights of Harlem River Blues.
The Memphis Soul influence is quite obvious, and purposefully so, thanks to the fact that Earle delved into the production of the Nothing’s Gonna Change while also recording the record in the home of rockabilly. The addition of a horn section, which remains relatively subdued, adds a new perspective to Earle’s overall sound in a manner that makes it sound fresh and far removed from any of his previous recordings. From the relaxed vibes of Down On The Lower East Side to the lively Baby’s Got A Bad Idea, the horn section never sounds like a gimmick and merely adds to the authenticity that has been at the fore of Earle’s mind throughout his career so far.
While the prevalence of downbeat tracks creates a perception of the album being a little too one paced, Earle can still produce a hook of the finest quality. Both Memphis In The Rain and Baby’s Got A Bad Idea up the tempo and force the listener into unwittingly dreaming of Memphis and Graceland. The likes of Unfortunately, Anna provide Earle with a platform to bear his soul and plead for understanding and forgiveness and more often than not strike a chord to those willing to give him the time of day to embrace his pain.
Nothing’s Gonna Change ultimately fails in its desire – if this ever was the case – to trump what has come before. While it’s far from a disastrous record it remains lacking in scope and ambition where, for example, Harlem River Blues excelled. A sense of tiredness seeps through in the Earle’s voice and persona, whether this a fatigue from the road or the perils of existence is debatable. There is still plenty within this record that many a listener will find solace within, however it’s a dip in form for such a supremely talented individual.