With Justin Townes Earle’s pedigree come mixed blessings. As the son of legendary singer/songwriter Steve Earle, high expectations are the name of the game, and he’s shown that he is up to the task on The Good Life, crafting stark portraits and narrative tales with elements of blues, classic country and rock n’roll. A modern-day troubadour, Earle blends genres seamlessly, framing his songs in warm musical settings and creating tunes that could easily be mistaken for classics. “I started out to make an old timey country record, but I listen to so many other kinds of music,” Justin explained. “Some of the songs were rearranged on the spot and took on other lives and album is now more of an exploration of southern music.” Earle approaches universal topics like traveling and matters of the heart (“Hard Living”, “The Good Life”) with the same fervor with which he evokes the bleak loneliness of a Civil War soldier on “Lone Pine Hill”.
The Good Life is produced by RS Field (Billy Joe Shaver, Sonny Landreth) and Steve Poulton. The album was recorded (with the exception of “Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving”) at House of David studios, the legendary room that has hosted sessions with George Jones, Elvis Presley, Neil Young and countless others. Joining Earle in the studio are a cast of all-star players including longtime cohort Cory Younts (Bobby Bare, Jr) on banjo and mandolin, pedal steel player master Pete Finney (Dixie Chicks, Patty Lovelace), bassist Bryn Davies (Patty Griffin, Guy Clark), drummer Bryan Owings (Buddy Miller, Shelby Lynne), keyboardist Skylar Wilson and fiddle player Josh Hedley.
Justin Townes Earle is 25 years old and his age belies his experience. Growing up in Nashville he mis-spent his youth playing in bluegrass/ragtime combo The Swindlers and the louder, more rocking The Distributors and developing some very bad habits. During tours as guitarist and keyboardist (“…and not a very good one,” laughs Earle) in his father’s band, his problems became untenable and he was fired. Ultimately he cleaned up his act, dropped his self-destructive habits and began to focus on songcraft. “You don’t have to be fucked up or torture yourself to write songs,” explains Earle, “I used to write a lot, a whole lot, and half those songs I don’t even remember. Now, I sit there and I write it and I finish it and I keep it.”
With inspirations as diverse as Townes Van Zandt (he was named in honor of the elder Earle’s hero), Jimmy Reed, Kurt Cobain, The Replacements, Ray Charles and The Pogues, Justin forged his own brand of American roots music. Going through life with a namesake of Van Zandt’s stature cannot be easy for a young songwriter, but Earle takes it in stride,” saying, “Anyone who tries to live up to Van Zandt is a fool. I’m honored to carry the name, but if I spent my life trying to live up to it, I’d have a pretty miserable life.” Likewise, his father’s incredibly acclaimed, prolific career casts a huge shadow, but Justin Townes Earles makes a name for himself by focusing his writing on the personal rather than the political, narrative tales instead of protest. The Good Life melds the qualities of a short story with the lyrical acuity of excellent songs, celebrating grand southern traditions and blowing a fresh breeze across the musical gardens and dive bars of Nashville.