Thursday, 12 April 2012

Justin Townes Earle- The Regal Ballroom

Justin Townes Earle follows the tradition of independent maverick, much in the same way his father has done in his career. Inherent in his music is that desire not to be trapped into the Nashville machine, to retain his independence and to hone his craft in his own way. That includes not being predictable in the albums he makes, there is a welcome approach to incorporating all the styles that influenced him as a budding musician. His last album Harlem River Blues was not only a commercial breakthrough but an artistic one as well, it was an album of finely crafted songs of love, loss and redemption.

In a live setting Townes Earle is equally honest, he embraces the idea of independence on stage by performing in a way that suits him but never loses it's impact. Last night's performance started with Townes Earle performing solo before being joined by another guitarist and double bass player. He started with Wandering from Harlem River Blues which harks back to the spirit of Woody Guthrie, one of the more lighthearted moments from Harlem River Blues is One More Night In Brooklyn which documents his early days in New York living in less than salubrious conditions. He has a new album out which I will review shortly, it's called Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now and it has more of a soul music focus but even with a song like Memphis in The Rain Townes Earle can adapt the song to fit his surroundings and it loses none of it's essence. His onstage banter is relaxed and colourful he paints small pictures of the catalysts for his songs, normally revolving around his interaction with the opposite sex. Am I That Lonely Tonight which opens the album reflects his songwriting, it's heartfelt and painfully honest, depicting his on going battle for inner peace. His ability to convey the same feeling in a live setting is was makes his shows so remarkable. I saw him two years ago at the Forum but I preferred this more intimate show. Mama's Eyes from his Midnight at the Movies is another display of his raw approach commenting on the somewhat fractured relationship he has with his father. Townes Earle has no trouble conveying the emotional aspect of these songs in a live context.

Towards the end of the show he performs his version of The Replacements Can't Hardly Wait and transforms it into an aching country folk song about loneliness on the road, he delivers such a mesmerising performance even with limited accompaniment. The opening act for the night was local hillbilly three piece The Re-Chords who I have been meaning to catch live for sometime, they put in a great performance, their close knit harmonies and quick picking was a highlight. The second support was from a solo singer Archer who I have never heard of before and performed in a style reminiscent of Jimmie Rodgers, but unfortunately his performance didn't crossover. If you want to hear that type of music go to C.W Stoneking he is the master of that sound. The Regal Ballroom is a relatively new live venue in Melbourne but it's certainly an ideal addition and hoping to see many more live performances there.

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