Vinyl Vlog 077

Vinyl Vlog 077

Monday, 27 April 2015
Vinyl Vlog

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Record Store Day-issued Live At Grimey’s LP by Justin Townes Earle.

For some reason, it always feels a little awkward to review the work of a second generation musician. Maybe it’s because the easiest comparison to make (be it positive or negative) is to the artist’s progenitor; like, how easy is it to look at Sean Lennon’s work and not see John Lennon or Yoko Ono in the periphery, and one look at Jakob Dylan will instantly call images of Bob Dylan to mind. In situations like that, the younger of the two artists involved always comes up short because, really, it’s very difficult to stand  next to a cultural pillar without being stuck in its shadow. That issue has befallen Justin Townes Earle for most of his career (his father is Steve Earle – for the unfamiliar) and the shadow definitely continues to lurk in the corners of Live At Grimey’s too; however, while coming dangerously close to the edge on a couple of occasions here, Earle manages to retain his identity in the eight songs which comprise this 10” special release.

The way Live At Grimey’s is (or isn’t – depending on how one looks at it) presented is instantly interesting, because it really doesn’t sound like it was editted in any way. The breaks between songs are long (which is surprising, given that this is a vinyl release) and full of candid admissions from the singer to the crowd which makes the way it plays accessible and engrossing. After it gets on its way, “Call Ya Momma” casts a great and peculiar spell which mixes deep South sweetness and heartache with a very clean, decidedly “northern” tone and can hook even the hardest cynic just LOOKING for something to dislike about the sound. Earle’s voice sits very well in the mix too, and moves along slow enough that listeners get the impression this song is at least partially autobiographical – he even manages to get a bit of quiver in it which makes it feel as though the singer is living this heartache all over again.

Listeners who aren’t really familiar with Earle’s work will still be trying to compose themselves when he eventually begins digging into “When The One You Love Loses Faith,” and it’s at that moment when, even if a listener’s not completely won by the music, they’re definitely going to be in to make it to the end of the album. Sure, some of the early dialogue is a little stunted and pedantic and “Worries About The Weather” isn’t the single greatest song in the world, but the album gets better as it goes – particularly as”Single Mothers” builds up at the A-side’s close and really gets listeners to continue to the B-side, where Earle really lets all his heart and soul hang out, uninhibited.

Listeners will know they’re in for an even bettwe return than the album’s A-side offered as the needle digs in and finds “Today and A Lonely Night.” There, all of the elements which prove that Earle’s band bears a lot of promise are perfectly visible: Paul Niehaus’ guitar weeps gently and is held up by Matt Pence’s drums for support, and listeners will feel as though they need to rush in to help – the sound is THAT cathartic. Even Earle himself gets in on the emotional action; his accent appears a little more noticeably than normal, as if to imply that he’s just that close to totally breaking down. Saying that such a performance is heart-wrending feels like it should be an overstatement somehow, but it truly is the only term that fits. That fragile sensation holds up through “Burning Pictures” and “White Gardenias” but, before it goes too far, Earle pulls the side back from the abyss that it’s headed toward and gets angry with “Someone Will Pay” to close it up. There’s no mistaking the build of injured anger there but, instead of really exploding (which would resolve the sensations on this album very well), the band simply walks away and leaves listeners to try and try to pick it up themselves. Those who have gone front-to-back with the album will feel the urge to chase after Justin Townes Earle and beg for more, but they won’t because they’ll already know there’s nothing else to get from his; he gave them a set of eight serenades to run over as often as they like, but they’ll have to wait for more music for right now. That fact may taste a little bitter at first but, when they run through Live at Grimey‘s a few more times to salve their desire for more, they’ll be alright and ready to line up for more new music when Earle returns.


The Live At Grimey’s LP is out now. Copies can be found here on Amazon, or visit your local independent record store to see if their supply has lasted this long.

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