Whether you believe in nature or nurture, Justin Townes Earle has consistently used his talent to search for the true soul of Americana music. His five previous albums have been recorded amidst a host of personal barriers and, while commercial appeal has never been on the agenda, recognition for what he has been striving for has been forthcoming. Not an artist afraid to confront experimentation within the confines of his mission, the latest album SINGLE MOTHERS does reflect a maturity in the writing and outlook of a married man passing the threshold of thirty. Of course there is still fire in his belief that truly authentic Americana music needs to be made and has decided that the time has arrived to make a more laid back mellow version in search of the holy grail of contemporary roots music.
Despite an undulating rhythm and pace across its half hour, SINGLE MOTHERS is representative of an unhurried sound, placid in places but totally absorbing in ambience and effect. Pedal steel guitar reigns supreme on this ten track album, owning the softer parts of the sound and spearheading Justin’s delve into elements of classic country. However like all true Americana recordings it does possess smidgeons of blues, soul and a touch of soft rock.
In a bid to remove the potential of polluted tinkering, the album was recorded solely with his four piece touring band with minimum rehearsal and takes. In fact two of the more passive inducing songs feature just Justin and pedal steel guitarist Paul Niehouse, these comprise of the slightly solemn ‘Picture in a Drawer’ and the totally mesmeric ‘It’s Cold in this House’. In contrast both album closer ‘Burning Pictures’ and ‘Time Shows Fools’ are recorded with a little more upbeat and oomph but still retain the overall ethos of mild in overture and sentiment.
As you would expect the writing is deeply intense and personal but Justin leaves it open for the listener to decide whether to immerse themselves in the lyrics or kick back and enjoy the vibes. The latter has soulful tinges in ‘Wanna be a Stranger’ and ‘My Baby Drives’, while Justin flirts a little with the blues on his social commentary number and title track ‘Single Mothers’. Fantastic atmospheric pedal steel opens another heartfelt track ‘Today and a Lonely Night’ where Justin bares his sole and asks for nothing more back than a sympathetic ear.
Album opener ‘Worried about the Weather’ welcomes the listener to the milder and more conciliatory side of Justin Townes Earle to launch a seamless thread of music built to last. While there are a multitude of candidates for stand out track on an album pretty even in quality there is an ultimate soothing presence about the gorgeous ‘White Gardenias’ where once again pedal steel is king and Justin resonates with his new found contentment.
SINGLE MOTHERS has an open invite to join Justin Townes Earle on his new journey of discovery and an affirmative RSVP is an essential response. This phase of his career has seen him sign to Loose Music for the UK release of the album and he joins a growing band of artists exploring an area of country music where few dare to tread. Perhaps we are also a step nearer where the word Justin outweighs the other components of his name.