Justin Townes Earle
Kids In The Street
New West Records
Justin Townes Earle has always been an irascible little cuss…but then again, so’s his old man. But there’s no denying that with a guitar in his hands, Earle has created magic, and his latest, Kids In The Street, continues his winning streak. His eighth release finds him working with an outside producer for the first time (Mike Mogis) and he’s surrounded himself with some of Nashville’s finest pickers (although the record was tracked in Omaha), including his ace guitarist and pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.
After the rather somber and at times melancholy last two records – 2014’s Single Mothers and 2015’s Absent Fathers, the twelve cuts found here are more buoyant and upbeat, such as the opener “Champagne Corolla”. He follows that up with “Maybe A Moment”, and it’s Earle at his most winning – a gently rolling, rather Springsteen-ish slice of life that allows Justin’s unique way of relating an episode to shine.
Earle has never been tied to one sound or genre on any of his records, and Kids In The Street is no exception. “What’s She Crying For” is an old-time country weeper that would have sounded great done by George Jones, while “15-25” sounds like a second-line NOLA riff. The quiet, fingerpicked title cut is sublime, and his take on the blues standard “Stagger Lee” (called “Same Old Stagolee”) is an interesting recast with a great acoustic blues guitar…and vibraphone by Ben Brodin. And it works perfectly.
Justin Townes Earle makes his own way thru the world, answering to nobody but himself. Kids In The Street shows that’s a winning recipe.