Sat Sep 28 2019
8:00 PM (Doors 5:00 PM)
$25.00 - $40.00
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Justin Townes Earle plus Jesse Malin
Once compared to a man who wears many suits, in thirty-two short years Justin Townes Earle has experienced more than most, both personally and professionally. Between releasing four full-length-critically-acclaimed albums, constant touring, multiple stints in rehab, a new found sobriety, being born Steve Earle’s son, amicable and not-so-amicable break-ups with record labels, and facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life, it’s safe to say JTE has quite the story to tell. His fifth album (and first ever on Vagrant Records) serves as the perfect platform for such narrations.
Entitled Single Mothers, the album is comprised of ten tracks that showcase exactly why Justin Townes Earle is considered a forefather of Contemporary Americana. As a recently married, sober man JTE writes from a point of maturity and content we’ve not seen before on past records. “One day I just realized it’s not cool to die young, and it’s even less cool to die after 30,” Justin states as he reflects on a life past and his newly found clarity. What he’s created is an album that’s raw, honest and personal in a way he hasn’t touched upon since his debut EP, Yuma.
Co-produced along side longtime engineer Adam Bednarik, Single Mothers shines in a world of pop-culture driven Ameri- cana records. “I don’t really know what Americana means anymore,” Justin laughs. “That’s not a slant on Americana, it’s just become a very unclassifiable genre. It’s gone seemingly pop. There are good parts to that, but it’s getting to a point where it won’t be able to redeem itself if it doesn’t slow down. Just like everything that gets popular.” With his heart and soul still rooted in Nashville, Single Mothers shows Justin’s continued combination of catchy songs and authenticity.
The album was recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment. In fact, his songs “Picture in a Drawer’ and ‘It’s Cold in This House’ are only Justin, his guitar and his pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.
Earle’s new perspective is clear on Single Mothers as it opens with the track ‘Worried Bout The Weather,’ where we see the intimate, sensitive side of JTE. Here Justin rehashes feelings of trouble on the horizon singing “it don’t take a twister to wreck a home, don’t take a night to feel like you’re in the dark and all alone” – a theme that has surfaced before in his lyrics, but this time with a personal honesty and openness. Justin’s mood switches gears on the upbeat track ‘My Baby Drives.’ “My baby drives me to church on Sundays, take me to see my Momma on every
other Monday. Some might say I’m the luckiest man alive,” Justin croons light heartedly. On the title track ‘Single Mothers’ we hear feelings of resentment as JTE growls, “absent father, never offer even a dollar, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that he’s forfeited his rights to his own. Absent father is long gone.”
“As I’ve gotten older my anger comes from a very different place. It’s more rational and mature. I guess that comes along with clarity,” JTE reflects. Single Mothers finds Justin dealing with past struggles and anger with more ease than ever before. Creating a nostalgic feeling with the return to his signature sound, JTE takes listeners on a journey through some of his most personal stories yet on what can only be described as an authentic country record.
It’s been five years since Jesse Malin last released an album, and that only upped the stakes for this one. New York Before the War is a hymn to everything
Malin believes in most: respecting your roots, grabbing the future by its throat, and creating a soundtrack for a life filled with meaning. None of those things is easy to do, especially now. In fact, that’s what the war in the title is all about: the battle to create and hold onto what’s worthwhile even as so many forces, both internal and in the world outside, conspire to sweep it away. At the very top of that list is music.
“I wanted to make a record that encompassed everything I’ve been through since I started playing hardcore when I was twelve or thirteen,” Malin says. Two years ago he had completed an album “out in the country” at White Star Studio near Charlottesville, VA. But then he realized it really wasn’t finished. “Late last December, just back from a tour, I found myself sitting in my studio apartment in an old, crooked building that had the words THE WAR boldly painted on its side,” Malin says. “In the silence of the holidays, away from family and friends, I found myself questioning everything I believed in. Looking out the window at a broken world where our values, culture and art have become instantly disposable, I felt lost and alienated, but still yearning for something more. Turning to my music, I tried to carve out a place where I could once again exist, and I sat down and wrote the rest of this record.”
He ended up with close to forty songs. “I’ve always been a fan of the album as an art form,” Malin says, and New York Before the War is a unified statement. It opens with “The Dreamers,” a haunting ballad that nearly became the album’s title track. Resting on an elegant piano figure, the song evokes both the alienation and the sense of deep connection that travel can bring. Wherever you are and whomever you meet, “the blood still runs red,” Malin sings. That sense of doubleness, that emotional complexity – carving your own path but desperate for connection to a larger community -- runs throughout the album. Darker meditations like “She’s So Dangerous” and “Bar Life” nestle next to rockers like “Freeway” (which features a blistering solo by the MC5’s Wayne Kramer) and “Turn Up the Mains” (with Alejandro Escovedo on backing vocals).
Even within individual songs a sense of openness and possibility sometimes feels inextricable from the lure of destruction. In “Death Star” a woman gains a wealthy lover who “dresses to the right,” but loses her soul. The jauntily upbeat “Bent Up” is about a friend and former band mate who died of a drug overdose. It’s a roses-and-thorns kind of thing. The very qualities that make you compelling and creative can spiral you down. And, as with the lure of technology today, things that feel good and make your life seem easier can also destroy you.
“I always thought of music as a lifestyle, a place to exorcise your demons, connect with others and rejoice in the lonely places,” Malin says. “Somehow there’s a romance and an energy to all of this.”
Peter Buck contributes a vintage R.E.M.-style guitar part to “I Would Do It For You,” a tale of personal loyalty filled with longing and an aching sense of conviction. “That’s my favorite and maybe most honest lyric on the record,” Malin says. “It’s about someone from your past who tracks you down and needs something from you, and because of your history, you can’t say no. I never say what it is – whether it’s a crime, drugs, a sexual relationship.”
Malin finished New York Before the War at the Magic Shop in Soho and Flux Studios on Avenue A . Players include guitarist Derek Cruz, who co-produced the New York sessions with Malin; bassist Catherine Popper, who has played with Ryan Adams and Jack White; and drummers Randy Schrager (Scissor Sisters) and Paul Garisto, who played on Malin’s debut solo album, The Fine Art of Self-Destruction, and with the Psychedelic Furs. Guitarist Don Dilego played on and produced the sessions in Virginia.
“New York Before the War is a metaphor for surviving in an ever-changing, rapidly desensitized world, while trying to find a way to live truly,” Malin says. “It’s not one particular war, but a global sentiment made for these times. It’s a daily battle to keep the human spirit alive. Things are moving fast and forward, and this is my life right now.” – Anthony DeCurtis
Justin Townes Earle plus Jesse Malin
Sat Sep 28 2019 8:00 PM
(Doors 5:00 PM)