JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – ” Single Mothers “

Posted: October 18, 2021 in MUSIC
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Yeah, he’s Steve Earle’s kid, but you have to give the young man, whose father named him after one of the greatest songwriters ever, credit for cutting his own path through musical styles to find his own voice. “Single Mothers” finds Earle and band in a comfortable groove that sounds a little slithery and funky like Alabama soul.

Nashville-based Americana pioneer Justin Townes Earle has followed a meandering route of reinvention on each of his five full-length albums and lone EP. He’s moved from the classic honky tonk of 2008’s “The Good Life” through phases of country, rockabilly and soul along the way to 2012’s near perfect Memphis Horns-inspired “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now”. And yet, in some ways, Single Mothers feels like a continuation of “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now”. The mournful pedal steel (courtesy of returning guitarist Paul Niehaus) and smooth production sonically link the two records. But rather than a reinvention of his song, Single Mothers represents a renewal of self for Earle.

Single Mothers” is Earle’s first record for Vagrant Records, his first as a sober man and a married man. “Single Mothers” is not an overtly happy record, though, as indicated by the title. Rather, it illustrates a shift in perspective in how Earle reconciles with his past—from his famous father’s abandonment to his own parallel substance abuse.

He addresses his own upbringing on the title track with such poignancy as, “Absent father, oh, never offers, even a dollar / He doesn’t seem to be bothered / By the fact that he’s forfeited his right to his own, now / Absent father, is long gone now.” But Earle also digs back to his youth of listening to Billie Holiday, telling her story in his own heartbroken way on lead single “White Gardenias.” Most surprisingly, Earle seems to transform parts of his past into positive, up-tempo fun on “My Baby Drives.” While the familiar ache still haunts “Single Mothers”, Earle treats it with new wisdom, choosing instead to ramble forward, rather than perseverate and drift waywardly back.

We think the folks over at PopMatters nailed it when they concluded that “Single Mothers” is perhaps the record on which the younger Earle has finally found his own voice.

Of course, that doesn’t keep him from flirting with the darkness with which his father has always done lyrical battle. In “Picture in a Drawer,” he is looking at a picture of a lost lover on a rainy day when his mom calls. “Mama, if you don’t mind, can we talk about something else?” he sings. “Mama, please don’t come over. This ain’t nothin’ you can help / You’ll be the first to know when I start to come around / I’m not drowning / I’m just seeing how long I can stay down.”

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