Friday, September 05, 2014

Justin Townes Earle: "Single Mothers" (album review)

Justin Townes Earle has never really lived up to "Harlem River Blues".  Moreover, he doesn't seem interested in trying.  All the elements that made that a transcendent tune are utterly absent on his new record Single Mothers.

There are moments when Earle seems to envision himself as Tom Waits.  In particular, "Picture In a Drawer" feels desperate to share the sentiment of Waits' "Picture In a Frame", but lacks most of the poetry and emotion of its inspiration.  He again appears to try to tap into that vein with "It's Cold In This House", but misses the mark again.

Earle loves the weepy roots songs.  He gives a fairly touching one with "Worried About the Weather".  The wistful yet resigned "Today and a Lonely Night" may be the most effective display of Earle's emotional vulnerability in quite some time.  Unfortunately, too many of these tracks (the molasses-slow title track, "Wanna Be a Stranger", "White Gardenias") sounds like filler from mid-career Ryan Adams albums.

When the tempo and volume get turned up, so does the success rate of the songs.  "My Baby Drives" is a deliciously funky rockabilly-infused number, while the roots/rock of "Time Shows Fools" and "Burning Pictures" will get you toe tapping.

Despite a few strong cuts, Single Mothers is probably best used as an aid in getting your toddler to snooze.

Best tracks: "My Baby Drives", "Time Shows Fools"

Track listing for Single Mothers:
  • Worried About the Weather
  • Single Mothers
  • My Baby Drives
  • Today and a Lonely Night
  • Picture In a Drawer
  • Wanna Be a Stranger
  • White Gardenias
  • Time Shows Fools
  • It's Cold In This House
  • Burning Pictures

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