Justin Townes Earle Entertains With Salty Stage Banter and Soulful Songs

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Renee McMahon
Who: Justin Townes Earle

When: 4:45 p.m.

Where: Starbucks Stage

Justin Townes Earle is an entertainer. As a singer-songwriter with a penchant for songs about women, pushing boundaries, and tragedy, he could easily draw a crowd if he just stood in the middle in the stage, strummed out some chords, and sang in his soulful voice. Instead, he adopts the demeanor of Elvis and Johnny Cash's love child: he uses a salty, country drawl when he talks to the crowd, and he makes these clever comments between each song. He pronounces "theater" like "thee-ater." He tells the crowd that his two favorite things in the world are "young ladies and fried chicken, but the chicken comes first because it's caused me a lot less problems in my lifetime." Before launching into "Midnight at the Movies," he dedicates it to "dirty movie theaters, Greg Korso, Jack Kerouac, dope dealers, and prostitutes. He says his new album is a gospel album, which is a funny idea since "I'm not sure I'm welcome in God's house" because his whole bloodline (referring to his father, Steve Earle) disqualifies him from salvation.

Earle is an entertainer the same way the Carter family was half a century ago: he charms his audience, unafraid to contrast his saddest songs with humor. And that humor is much needed to temper the emotional lyrics on a song like "Mama's Eyes": "Strike a match and I see my reflection in the mirror in the hall/ and I say to myself/ I've got my mama's eyes."

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