The new Justin Townes Earle album is rather un-laconically named, Nothing’s Ever Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. It contains ten tracks recorded live within one weeks time in Asheville, NC. The album was co-produced by Skylar Wilson and released by Bloodshot Records. The best song is the title track. The instrumentation contains horns, fiddle, dual guitar parts, and scant harmony singing. In this writer’s opinion the rhythm section did the best session work on the album. The album consists of several break-up songs, several oh-lonesome-me songs, one boogie, and one ballad of a desperate person. Overall the album is fairly dark in terms of its lyrics and themes, but playful in its arrangements. Press surrounding Nothings Ever Gonna has repeatedly referred to the album as “having gone in a Memphis soul direction”. Esquire magazine reviewed it under the title “The New Memphis Sound”. Calling this album a foray into soul music is like saying Sweetheart of the Radio was a foray into klezmer.
Over the past few years, Justin Townes Earle has become more and more like a character out of a D.H. Lawrence novel. Mr. Earle was been named one of GQ’s 25 most stylish men in 2010. Right after Brad Pitt, but before Jude Law. Upon release, the album Nothing’s Ever […] could be purchased in tandem with a $170 bowtie made by a Nashville fashion designer. This website for this limited edition merchandise states that the bowtie’s design refers to “the storied past of Earle’s life as told through his tattoo art.” Meanwhile Mr. Earle seems to be in a name-dropping contest with New York designer Billy Reid, and speaks about his waistline to journalists as if he were auditioning for Scarlett O’Hara’s part in a remake of Gone With The Wind. (Earle the younger would have to lose 9 inches to fit into any of Scarlett’s frocks). An interview from the Dallas Observer two years ago was titled, “Justin Townes Earle, On the Importance of Fashion On Stage.” In the interview Mr. Earle states, “I can spot a cheap suit from three blocks away, and I don’t like the look of them.” Earle headlines at private parties for designer jean companies and works Italian fashion shoots on the side. Yes, a D.H. Lawrence character indeed – like Michaelis, the Irish author from Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Earle and Michaelis enact an astute commentary on the unbridled, consumerist narcissism that is running the world into the ground.
Maddeningly, Earle the younger has referred to the Carter Family and Staples Singers as inspirations for the album, who “were singing songs that were mostly based on religion, and on hard times, and on everyday life.” Excessive foppishness is neither an everyday affliction nor a religious experience, but it probably does make life hard in its own way. (And Earle is certainly doing his part to make it an everyday affliction.) Given this state of affairs, the vocals on Never Gonna sound fairly wrought, one might say overwrought, but nothing in the words or accompaniment gives us a clue as to why. There is nothing wrong with the album – it’s clean and passable. It has the potential be a roaring commercial success, much like Michaelis’ novels. Ah, the bitch goddess of success. But life does become unsatisfactory when we put on clothes and instead of us wearing them, they are wearing us. And everything there is to say about unsatisfactoriness has already been said.
Score: 5/10 (passable but mealy)
Goes well with: a subscription to GQ, precious things from Williamsburg, D.H. Lawrence
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