Justin Townes Earle, “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now” (Bloodshot)
Four albums ago, Justin Townes Earle introduced himself as good-time rake who warned women about his rambling ways with a wink and a pinch. His music — a jaunty update on old-time acoustic music steeped in swing, blues and mountain hoedowns — perfectly matched his playful persona.
Now 30 years old, and not far from a rehab stint, Earle sounds as if he’s reckoning with his wayward ways. Even his lengthy album title, “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now,” acknowledges that some burned bridges may never get repaired.
Always a gifted songwriter and guitarist, Earle deals with the consequences of his actions with an album of self-examining songs set to low-key yet lush arrangements featuring somber brass accents. His voice remains packed with emotion and personality, but it has more range and takes more risks, as he whispers, slurs and moans like a midnight caller.
His self-written songs, each as strong as the next, deal with family history, with the way loved ones shade the truth to each other, and with the downhill side of love and friendship. Somehow, through the confessionals and dark stories, a powerful light shines through.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On “Look The Other Way,” Earle reveals to a loved one that he’s as down-and-out as can be. Singing like a sweet soul man, Earle — behind a subtly rhythmic arrangement pulsing with horns like red neon flickering on a rainy street — gently suggests that avoiding a discussion of his difficult issues isn’t helping either of them. –Michael McCall, For the AP