A Tribute To the Late Great Singer Songwriter: Justin Townes Earle “Single Mothers” Reviewed
(I will be reprinting some of my Justin Townes Earle post in tribute to the late singer songwriter, who died yesterday -IL)
Two years after the best album of 2012, here comes what may well be the best album of 2014 Single Mothers. It doesn’t peak as high as Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way I Feel About You, there is nothing as clearly revealing as “Am I Lonely Tonight”, but from the high hat and drum roll that introduces us and for the following 29 minutes, there is nothing wanting, nothing to add, nothing to subtract, nothing to negotiate and nothing to doubt. It is flawless. As JTE said during a recent tussle with a record label: “I write a record. Quality matters not quantity! I deliver records in sequence and have a pretty good record so far.”
Everything about Single Mothers is right, the length is perfect, these highly melodic country tracks with the occasional guitar solo (but less horns) are waiting to be heard over and over again on a loop. Just when you are dying for the opening track “Worried About The Weather”, with its wonderful slide guitar instrumental break and simplest of metaphors (he is scared she will change like the weather): a compact, clever concept wrapped up in three and half minutes, there it is. And you are not that far from his first single, ode to Billie Holiday “White Dahlias”
But to get there you have to go through “Single Mothers” (and “absent fathers” hint hint) and the rollicking rockabilly “My Baby Drives” and then you get back to Justin with a teardrop “Picture In A Drawer”…. and and and… This is an amazing achievement, the incredible one perfect song after another, if you write, or even think about it , doesn’t seem quite possible.It sounds like it wandered off the Appalachian mountains except it doesn’t, “Picture In A Drawer”, so so succinct “Mama you said she is no good and now she’s gone” it digs itself in, like a classic concept, like it’s been around for a long while.
Justin has always been a very good lyricist, he never overstates his case, never writes purple prose, he isn’t a sentimentalists and lets the stories speak for themselves, but he doesn’t miss often and here he doesn’t miss at all. And we haven’t yet reached the two singles, both of which are… no better than anything else here.
I don’t think I have anything left to say. If I wanted to start a fight I might claim it isn’t so ambitious, it is just what it is and no more. But my heart wouldn’t be in it, not when what Singles Mothers is is one perfect song after another. Justin is a musical genius, one of our greatest living songwriters, and this is a great achievement.