The younger Earle is on a roll and easily proving that the answer is the latter. He received strong reviews for last year's "Midnight at the Movies," his second full-length release. He has been a steadily touring warhorse doing more than 200 shows in 2009 and seeing his star rise. A sold-out crowd of about 200 at this small club was an indication of that.
Earle dished out his musical potpourri of country, country blues, some honky tonk and a bit more during his almost 90-minute set.
Wearing glasses, a suit and bow tie - GQ has heaped praise on him for his sartorial splendor - Earle offered a slew of good songs, including the fiddle driven They Killed John Henry, which he dedicated to his grandfather farmer, from "Midnight."
He also seemed to make it clear - at least lyrically (he has shared some of his father's problems with substance abuse) - that he was not going to live in his father's shadow. Mama's Eyes made that point with Earle singing "I am my father's son/I've never known when to shut up/I ain't fooling no one/I am my father's son/we don't see eye to eye."
Earle would later into the blues of Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, doing a good turn on both. Near the end of the set, Earle's version of The Replacements' Can't Hardly Wait hit the mark.
Earle's sidekicks - Bryn Davies on bass and Josh Hedley on fiddle along with backing vocals by both - were certainly competent on their instruments, but they could have used more outward energy on stage. That could have helped take the concert to a higher level. And they pretty much did so on the closing song of the two-song encore, a fitting version of Buck Owens' Close Up the Honky Tonks. The club was not exactly a honky tonk, but no matter.
Earle has learned his musical lessons well. And not just from his father. Justin Townes Earle is his own man.