There is no doubting the fact that Justin Townes Earle is his own man. A gifted writer and impassioned performer, spending an evening in the company of the young songsmith from Nashville, Tennessee, is a little like getting to know a stranger in some wayward bar – only there are fewer peanuts on the floor and much better music wafting through the air. And on Saturday, Earle not only delivered vivid selection of songs from his catalogue, he took us on a tour of his life.
Son of singer-songwriter Steve Earle, the only reference Justin made to his iconic father – be it musical or verbal – came during the introduction to “Momma’s Eyes.” “Although I’m proud to be my father’s son, I’m first and foremost my momma’s boy,” he explained before gently easing the audience into the beautifully considered and achingly nostalgic musing on his heritage.
A rustic retro delivery underpins the delivery of all Earle’s tales. Armed with an acoustic guitar and an endless supply of grace and talent, the notes and chords that emanate are as enchanting as the tales they accompany. With his lanky frame hunched over the guitar, Earle constantly shuffled from side to side throughout the show, adding a gorgeous air of humility to his performance.
Earle’s set featured offerings from both The Good Life and Midnight at the Movies, and along with “Momma’s Eye’s” other highlights included “Midnight at the Movies” and “Halfway to Jackson.” Flavored with touches of honky tonk, ragtime, folk, and country, Earle’s sound might be channeling a bevy of musical paths, but he never does seem to loose his way.
Joining Earle for this latest installment of the monthly Sings Like Hell concert series was another Nashville-based act, The Greencards. Making their second appearance to SLH, this unique new-grass collective boasts members from Australia, the UK, and the United States. Like Earle, The Greencards were also brandishing a new album, Fascination, a fact the collective was plenty eager to constantly remind the audience of.
The Greencards craft their sound around Eamon McLoughlin’s strings, Kym Warner’s mandolin and vocals, and Carol Young’s bass and vocals. When Warner takes command of the mike, the songs typically take on a traditional feel, while Young’s contributions tend to offer a slightly more soulful approach. The two voices also offered up a beautiful blending of styles on “The Avenue.”
A shimmering example of string-driven pop, Young’s gorgeous delivery of the song was underscored with an edgy rhythm that was both mesmerizing and suave. Another highlight came in the form of the title track off their latest recorded offering. With such diverse origins it is easy to expect The Greencards to offer something special, and on Saturday they delivered that and more.