Being the son or daughter of a famous country performer is a dichotomy. Sure, the name may help you get a contract from a record label, but for everyone that gives you a listen because of who you are, there will be another who writes you off as just living off the family name. You also have a built in measuring stick for your success. Can you be as good as who came before you? And nearly every album and concert review will include comparisons of the newer performers to the older, not just raw takes on the talent of that person as an individual.
It is a dichotomy that Hank Williams III and Shooter Jennings live with, and so does Justin Townes Earle. As the son of the alt-country god Steve Earle, the bar no doubt has been set pretty high.
Justin also has the virtue (or burden) of hauling the name “Townes” around with him as well, borrowed from Townes van Zandt, disputably one off the greatest Texas songwriters there ever was. So make those boots he’s got to fill a few sizes bigger.
But you might be surprised to learn that I’m not a particularly big Steve Earle fan, so the “Earle” was just a name to me. Furthermore I was one of the fools who spent six months starring at Hank III’s first album while sifting through Jr.’s CD’s and thinking to myself: “How good could he really be?”
I wish I had those six months back now.
Another counter in Justin Townes’ corner was that he was signed to Bloodshot Records, and from my experience, anything released by Bloodshot is shortly to become tits in my book.
I thought that Justin’s first album The Good Life was excellent. Great songwriting, with good unique and sometimes vintage production and arrangement that gives songs that classic sound. To me, that album is a “must have” in anyone’s music library.
Here’s a previewer:
Here’s one of my favorite songs from that album:
Justin just released his second album Midnight at the Movies a couple of weeks back. I haven’t given it a ton of my time yet, but at first glance it is a little more alt. than country for my taste, but Justin Townes Earle has proved that he is a good songwriter, and that he should be judged for more than just being his daddy’s son.
Justin Townes Earle will be the guest on this month’s It Burns When I Pee podcast to be released this Friday, March 27th.