Justin Townes Earle

The Good Life – 2008 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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Despite being Steve Earle's son and named after the late Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, Justin Townes Earle's full-length label debut owes much more to the work of legendary artists like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Jimmie Rodgers than it does the singer/songwriter music of both his father and his namesake.

The 10 tracks skip around loosely through a variety of traditional country music styles and showcase Earle's considerable skills as both a composer and songwriter. From the classic honky tonk sounds of tracks like "Hard Livin'," "Ain't Glad I'm Leavin'" and "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome" to the somber blues rock of "Faraway in Another Town" and the historical acoustic balladry of "Lone Pine Hill," this album cuts a broad swath through the heart of traditional country music with a sound that manages to be retro without coming across as either kitschy or a cheap imitation.

With the support of R.S. Field's beautifully understated production work and a reliable musical backbone provided by a collection of A-List studio musicians, Earle has taken classic sounds and made them fresh again - a considerable accomplishment for any debut album.