Justin Townes Earle

The Good Life
(Bloodshot)

Let's get real here — lots of what makes the "country" charts (in case you haven't noticed) sounds like watered-down power-pop with some vague twang added for "authenticity." Most of these pretty boys/girls wouldn't know Buck Owens from Buck Rogers — but this Justin Townes Earle knows, I'll wager. If his name sounds familiar, yes, he's the son of alt-country/bluegrass dynamo Steve Earle, but he's most definitely not some callow kid riding the family coattails. If anything, he conjures suggestions of Hank Williams Sr. (especially vocally) far more than his padre, especially on the classic-to-be honky-tonk shuffle "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome." The insanely catchy "Hard Livin'" has the unassuming, limber joie de vivre of classic Western swing (likely America's first "fusion" music, a mixture of country and swing-era jazz popular in the '30s and '40s). Yet JTE is not stuck in the past, as "South Georgia Sugar Babe" makes plain, with its Brother Ray-style Southern R&B flavor (complete with dee-lish, high-calorie Hammond B3 organ) and hints of reggae. With his tenacious, plainspoken delivery, vivid songcraft, and rough-and-ready band sound, Justin Townes Earle's The Good Life proves he'll live up to the family legacy and then some.

 
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