Album Review: The Good Life by Justin Townes Earle
Acceptable, Based on 3 Critics
AllMusic - 70 Based on rating 7/10
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Justin Townes Earle's father is Steve Earle, and the sort of folks most likely to be interested in Justin's debut album The Good Life are the same kind of music fans who've been following his dad's work for years. Thankfully for Justin, that's not because he sounds all that much like his old man; Justin's voice is sweeter and clearer, and his clear fondness for old-school country gives The Good Life a pleasing feeling of understatement that's significantly different from Steve's tougher, more rock-oriented work. But if Justin is reaching back to the glory days of the Grand Ole Opry on numbers like "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome," "Hard Livin'," and the title tune, he also reveals a more contemplative side on thoughtful, no-frills singer/songwriter pieces such as the confessional "Who Am I to Say," the period gunman's saga of "Lone Pine Hill," and "Turn out My Lights," a plaintive meditation on loneliness and heartbreak.
Having seen Justin Townes Earle play these Hank Williams Sr. and Jimmie Rodgers-inspired honky-tonk numbers with his string band combo, I can tell you that Nashville producer R.S. Field and busy sessioneers Pete Finney, Bryn Davies and Bryan Owings wouldn’t have set aside the time to make this album had the guy’s surname been anything but Earle.
At the tender age of 25, Justin Townes Earle already must be sick of pondering his surname. Though his father, Steve Earle, once vowed to climb on Dylan's coffee table to champion the late Townes Van Zandt, the next generation two-steps through such a musical minefield and turns out a winner with his Bloodshot Records debut, The Good Life. Enlisting a crackerjack band – including Dixie Chicks pedal-steel player Pete Finney and Buddy Miller's drummer Brian Owings – Earle brings punky purpose to song styles first popularized when Betty Boop played the silver screen and Hank Williams still yodeled.