The Good Life, last year’s debut album from Justin Townes Earle, was a mixture of honky-tonk country stylings and confessional singer-songwriter material. Half of him was actively avoiding comparisons with his father Steve by going back to country before dad, and the other half was sticking close to the family template.
On Midnight At The Movies, the younger Earle is dipping into a wider well of Americana. A little jazz, a little blues, a delightful guitar rag, a 19th-century-style folk song, and an alternative-rock classic done up with banjos and fiddles join examples of the two dominant styles heard last time.
With every song an example of a different genre, it’s hard to tell if the album is as much of a breakthrough as it seems. Are there more intriguing rock ballads where the title track came from? Will he be able to write another folk melody as delicious as the one for “They Killed John Henry”? Can he come up with his own “Can’t Hardly Wait” a la the Replacements song he covers here?
Regardless, the confessional songs are as good as they were last time. “Here We Go Again” may bear a close resemblance at first listen to his dad’s “My Old Friend The Blues”, but it has its own world-weary approach to fighting off loneliness. And “Mama’s Eyes” is a powerful look at the demons and the talents he inherited from his father, tempered by an outlook he hopes to achieve like his mother did.