We’ve raved about Justin Townes Earle on this site before. He’s really an incredible songwriter, especially when he stays true to his own roots. He’s got some of the saddest but beautiful lyrics being written today. The latest offering from Earle, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now is a long, laborious title that fits an overall melancholy album. It’s sad because it’s true.
JTE is at his best when he channels the joy of the honkytonk or the somberness of the heart-aching songster. He does more of the latter on Nothing’s Gonna Change. One thing that bothered us about the album was the inclusion, perhaps intrusion, of horns. Why are their horns on an old fashioned roots country album? They just don’t fit.
“Look the Other Way” is a typical JTE song. It’s about heartache and unrequited love. It’s got the right kind of swing to it and the guitars sound clean. Earle’s vocals are as expected, which is a compliment. He has that style that can just bring to life these type of heartbreak songs. It’s one of those songs that sounds old fashioned, yet still interesting.
“Lower East Side” is a jazzy track befitting a smoke-filled speakeasy. Here the horns are appropriate and nice. Earle brings in his characteristic lyric about his head hanging low. The background organ fills the track with the exact feeling you’d expect from a song about the Lower East Side. It’s a great song that fits the flavor of Earle’s voice and the overall vibe of the album. It is one of the better songs on the album.
“Won’t Be the Last Time” is not exactly a typical JTE song. Instead of invoking Townes Van Zandt or other classic country songwriters, this song is plainly autobiographical. “Maybe I broke myself a promise I never meant to keep.” This is a raw, human song. It’s about love and addiction and pure, wretched humanity. It is gorgeous in an emotional way. The bass line is provided by what sounds like a stand up bass, which provides the perfect balance to Earle’s repetitive, “won’t be the last time refrain.” This is a gorgeous song and nominee for song of the year.
The track “Memphis in the Rain” is quintessential JTE. It’s upbeat with twangy guitars and killer vocals. It’s the classic country ramblin’ man at its best. There just aren’t very many people that can pull off this kind of sound in the music industry today. Clearly Earle has the songwriting chops to pull it off and the ability to sing it convincingly. Unsurprisingly the song is about seeking love amidst trial. “Looking for a change passing through Memphis in the rain…”
Overall the album is good. It’s definitely in the same vein as his last release Harlem River Blues. It’s got a mix of upbeat songs and introspective pieces. Fans of JTE will find their favorites here again. However, it still does not have the crossover appeal for the commercial country market. While at times over produced with a little too much pushing the sound (particularly “Unfortunately, Anna”) but the tracks mentioned above keep us interested. We’re putting “Won’t Be the Last Time” on our tracks of the year watch list. It’s that good.