Justin Townes Earle Live Review


STEP INN (10.03.11)

by Benny Doyle

Justin Townes Earle. Photo: Benny Doyle

Rattlehand start the evening with a traditional sound awash with a slight modern edge. Adopting a high riding guitar style akin to a bearded Johnny Cash, Josh Shelton engages and entertains while his melting vocals seep into those of harmonica player Steve Wallis with pure cohesion. The mandolin work of Glen Jarvis is also critical to the band’s sound and drives Rattlehand with tight, structured string play. It’s everyman, but never workman, -like which essentially is the essence of connecting with the people.

If Betty Page grabbed a guitar off Muddy Waters and a vocal lesson from Amy Winehouse, there is no doubt Lanie Lane would be the end result. Lane battles against a crowd seemingly at odds with showing any emotion, but by the time ‘Jungleman’ has whisked you to the days of prohibition, and subtle elements of flaminco have met head on with the Deep South on ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, the room is finally feeling a vibe in unison. Closing with ‘What Do I Do’, Lane shows herself to be a complete oddity domestically, in the best possible way.

The gangly form of Justin Townes Earle lumbers on stage and with an early dedication to his late granddaddy in ‘They Killed John Henry’, the storytelling begins and becomes as much part of the performance as his bold voice, creative finger picking and the tight-as-hell shadow work that Josh Hedley provides on violin and backing vocals. ‘I Don’t Care’ sends the faithful into raptures while his verbal ponderings regarding fried chicken and women highlight the subtle charisma that commands the room. Bluegrass, delta, folk, it does not matter, tonight Earle is holding all the aces. Shirt off, steaming, the current New Yorker calls final rounds with The Replacements cover ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ and leaves the stage with all present yearning for more.


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