Editors' pick

Justin Townes Earle

Singer-Songwriters
'

Editorial Review

Memphis soul, sound decision
By Mike Joyce
Friday, May 18, 2012

With its Stax-ish horn charts, guitar fills and keyboard grooves, “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now” often resonates with the sounds of Memphis soul. So, yes, it stands apart from the three previous full-length albums recorded by Justin Townes Earle, including his 2010 Manhattan-inspired odyssey, “Harlem River Blues.”

But you don’t need headphones to detect familiar influences on Earle’s latest release. The album opens with “Am I That Lonely Tonight?” -- a heartsick lament that references the singer-songwriter’s maverick dad, Steve Earle, and soulfully underscores family ties. Other ballads, especially “Unfortunately, Anna” and “Won’t Be the Last Time,” bring to mind the sparse yet vivid songcraft associated with Earle’s namesake, the late Townes Van Zandt.

Even so, Earle’s songwriting has acquired a sharply distinctive edge over the years, and this time around we get a chance to hear him honor his Southern roots in a variety of ways, from the album’s brooding title track to the horn-powered boogie romp “Baby’s Got a Bad Idea.” Laced with classic Memphis guitar double stops, the torchy “Maria” is one of Earle’s best love songs, while the closer “Movin’ On” leaves you wondering where he’s headed next. Unfortunately, the end comes all too soon, with the album running a scant 31 minutes.