Social commentary must run deep in the blood of the Earle family. Much like his father, Justin Townes Earle has always had something to say about society and our roles within it. However unlike his father, he leaves most of that commentary inside his songs and on the page. On his new album The Saint Of Lost Causes, Townes Earle not only speaks up for those without a voice, he offers up a solution to the narratives of their lives.
Opening an album with a dark and at times bleak track like “The Saint Of Lost Causes” would hamper most artists, and stop them dead in their tracks. Though here, we expect it and get rewarded with a depth and lyrical heft that’s only met by the ominous tones that fall all over the song. With that said, Townes Earle follows it with an upbeat pace on “Ain’t Got No Money.” The song has the bruises of a road weary traveler without the fighting marks that lead to scars. Additional notes from the mouth harp give the song that worn in sound, like it’s being played off the side of a train car in the rail yard. There’s a universality here, Townes Earle is channeling from multiple places and bringing it full frontal with plenty of teeth.
While “Don’t Drink The Water” has plenty of bluesy tonk tones, the message is loud and clear. The same goes for “Flint City Shake It,” where Townes Earle laments for a time when workers were well fed and were paid a living wage. He even takes on Western swing on “Pacific Northwestern Blues” and does so like its second nature. The message may be for those who can’t speak, but the music is dripping with heavy instrumentation causing a full sound that cannot be denied. The guitar solo here alone will remind you of riffs that came off the hollow body of artists like T-Bone Walker and Chuck Berry while the country elements that mix with jazz have that big band sound without the big band.
Of course while the message is important, it’s the music that sticks with you. The ease of the stride on “Over Alameda,” the country soaked tenderness of “Frightened By The Sound” and the bluegrass touches of “Say Baby” all tickle your ears with the album’s strongest points. When he has to slow things down, Justin Townes Earle shines and places the message aside to give you what you turned the album on for-solid music. The little pieces that come from all over America on these songs, the earnest tones, they all work together to create a sound that’s honest and heartfelt. With The Saint Of Lost Causes, Justin Townes Earle shows us a little more of his hand before doubling down and going all in.
The Saint Of Lost Causes will be available to stream and purchased from all digital music retailers when it gets released this Friday. It can be pre-ordered directly from New West Records on multiple formats and bundles. Justin Townes Earle is on tour starting June 01 in Atlanta, GA at Fox Theatre until September 22 in Franklin, TN at Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival. A complete listing of his upcoming appearances can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins.