Justin Townes Earle @ Prince Bandroom
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Justin Townes Earle @ Prince Bandroom

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When Earle was last here in March 2011 playing brilliant shows across the country, there was talk that he was still on the sauce. Fiery and spouting misogynist rants, he littered his sets of lovelorn ballads with a dangerous and almost criminal edge. Following this tour he’s reportedly cleaned up his act (he says, ‘to stay out of prison’), and tracked new album Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now live and in four days.

Early into his show at Prince Bandroom he reported a migraine, to the disappointment of some in the crowd. “Don’t worry, that ain’t gonna stop me”, he responded devilishly. It’s interesting to see that now he’s clean, the misogynist streak was not a product of substance abuse. Besides his mama, he doesn’t appear to like women much. Curiously though, each of the last four album covers contain images of Earle next to a hot lady, and of course most of his songs are about loving women.

From bona-fide blues to the aforementioned ballads, its remarkable the sort of reverence in which he’s held, particularly amongst the female members of the audience. Sure, some songs have a grittiness to them that wouldn’t be out of place on a Southern chain-gang, but the sappy stuff veers often into jazz-lite territory, in no ways fitting for a guy with a hell-raising reputation and who probably still worries about dropping the soap.

He covered songs from across his career in solo guise, and later with an upright bassist and extra guitarist. He apologetically made mention of not having a full band with him this tour, but surely he’d be able to source a local drummer who knows 4/4 and a couple of brass players who can play the three necessary notes? Nevertheless, he is a magnetic presence, exquisite dresser and powerful performer that belies his 30 years.

 

BY NICK HILTON

 

LOVED: His specs, 1980s tie and checked blazer (with buttons made of bones) gave him the look of a snappy encyclopaedia salesman.

HATED: No drummer? No way.

DRANK: The usual overpriced malted varieties.