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Album Review

Justin Townes Earle, 'Midnight at the Movies'

March 9, 2009
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Justin Townes Earle Midnight at the Movies
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ESSENTIAL "Mama's Eyes"

The striking thing about Justin Townes Earle's new record is the variety of styles it visits in just over 30 minutes. Just as striking, this variety doesn't come across as dabbling or disparity. There's old-school country ("Poor Fool," a freakishly catchy shuffle that features an arresting combination of steel and vibes). "Halfway to Jackson" is a locomotive country blues, "Black Eyed Suzy" has a bluegrass tinge to it, and on "Walk Out," Earle and company even rag it. There's singer-songwriter fare, too: The beautifully instrumented "Someday I'll Be Forgiven for This" and "Here We Go Again" sound like they could have been written by the Earle named Steve, and at times, particularly on the latter song, the son's voice is an eerie echo of his father's. "Mama's Eyes" tempts the listener to think that the elder Earle is present in another way, too. After the singer spends most of the song enumerating the ways in which he is "my father's son," he ends by suddenly shifting focus: "I've got my mama's eyes . . . and I still see wrong from right." Autobiography or fiction, it's a gorgeous song that shows what Earle is becoming capable of. (Out now)

STUART MUNRO

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