Justin Townes Earle @ Birchmere, Washington DC - May 18, 2012.
He carries around two names that are, shall we say, rather big in American songwriting history? Not worth debating at how much that means to him as he has had other troubling issues to deal with over his 30 years of life. Although he may not have gotten it all together yet, his songs are about as together as you would ever want.
He was extremely successful tonight at pulling this near sold-out crowd into his songs. They are surprisingly short, but still nail all the points to be made. He claimed at one point that he creates composite characters mostly, but admitted on particular song was directed at an old girlfriend--"I hope it hurts." I think I detected a little more autobiographical material than he may want to admit, but I would have to study his albums further and even then only guess. Better to just join into his world for 90 minutes.
He played solo for a couple songs at the start, in the middle, and one more to start the encore double. I really liked his solo playing more than the full band, which is normally not the case for me. By all means, I think having the band is a good idea, but I found his acoustic playing solid and varied with even some vocal style changes.
The band was rock solid, but almost too smooth and professional for my tastes. They all seemed like great studio sessionmen and only a few times later in the set, did the drummer push things a bit. The stand-up bass was nice and he added some dramatic bow touches. The guitarist added some steel guitar and was solid, just a bit predictable I suppose.
Earle was very good with the banter as he has a dark sense of humor and sounds like he would be fun to talk to, although he appears like he could get a little scary. Aside from introducing the band about six times, he commanded a lot of attention with his style. But that goes for his songs, too, as he is someone well worth a listen live or off his albums.
First published @ dcrocklive.blogspot.com.
Photo Credits: (1) Justin Townes Earle (unknown).