Sunday, March 7, 2010

Justin Townes Earle @ Bowery Ballroom 3/5/2010

Bouncing onto the stage at his sold out Friday night performance at Bowery Ballroom, Justin Townes Earle and his two band mates, Bren Davies on upright bass and Josh Henley on fiddle, fired up the crowd with a rollicking rendition of "Poor Fool". The three followed up with the stellar "They Killed John Henry" and "Halfway To Jackson".

Drawing largely from his first two studio albums, The Good Life and Midnight At The Movies, the Bloodshot Records recording artist and his accomplices easily balanced the honky tonk swagger of "What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome" with the southern blues of "A Desolate Angels Blues", as well as showcasing his string band revival prowess of such songs as "Hard Livin" and "Walk Out".

Throughout the evening, Mr. Earle often boisterously shouted “My Damn!” and “Oh My Damn!” as well as other southern-tinged expressions when songs finished. Dressed in a suspender-accompanied suit and wearing round wire framed glasses, Mr. Earle worked up a frenzy while performing, and came across as an entertaining, energetic, and charismatic combination of Pee-wee Herman and Hank Williams, laughingly spinning yarns for laughs.

Bantering with the audience, Mr. Earle recalled his southern-catholic upbringing, evangelized on the Texas blues, and jovially played a witty tune about a Louisiana- accented MTA subway conductor. The trio also burned through covers of Buck Owens' "Close Up The Honky Tonks" and Lightning Hopkins' "I Been Burning Bad Gasoline". Mr. Earle dedicated an equally heartfelt and passionate cover of The Replacements’ "Can’t Hardly Wait" to Spacewolf, otherwise known as Chris Feinstein, the late bassist for Ryan Adams and the Cardinals who passed away at the age of 42 last December. It was an affecting and affirming tribute.

The quieter, more intimate numbers found Mr. Earle working through sparser and simplified arrangements of "Mama’s Eyes" and "Midnight At The Movies". These were refreshing compared to the glossy-laced production of the studio recordings. These songs, along with "Someday I’ll Be Forgiven", showcased sincerity without becoming sappy or strained ballads- one of Mr. Earle’s strengths as a songwriter and performer. These moments allowed for the notes to fade soon after being plucked from his guitar and his words to dwell among the crowd.

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