Justin Townes Earle

Good genetics and a fifth of bourbon guide this 10-song rocker

A certain amount of insurgency might be expected from an artist whose last name is Earle and whose debut comes courtesy of Bloodshot Records, a repository of upstart Americana. Surprisingly, 25-year-old Justin Townes Earle, son of Steve, veers away from the renegade regimen that distinguishes other famous alt-country offspring — Shooter Jennings, Bobby Bare Jr., and Hank III among them — and opts for a more traditional route, one that encompasses down-home, tears-in-your-beer ballads rather than the raised middle finger of arrogance and defiance. Unlike the political posturing that preoccupies his dad, the younger Earle sings songs gleaned from regret and remorse, to the extent that "The Good Life, "Lonesome and You," and "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome" sound like long-lost outtakes from the Hank Williams Sr. songbook. Likewise, the jaunty honkytonk of "Hard Livin' " and "Ain't Glad I'm Leaving" would make Bob Wills beam with pride, with barrelhouse piano, fiddle, and pedal steel guitar lending an air of authenticity. The tattered Civil War narrative "Lone Pine Hill" and the feisty road diary "South Georgia Sugar Babe" add further credence to Earle's rustic roots and pay homage to the man who gave him his middle name, the late, great singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Ultimately though, it's Earle's inherent savvy which makes The Good Life that much better.

 
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