I woke up this morning still glowing and reeling from last night. Justin Townes Earle captivated the Aladdin Theatre in Portland, the way I have a feeling he does every single time he brandishes that guitar and opens his mouth to sing. I see hundreds of shows, and this man sparkles with charisma of the real deal. I had a strong sense that I was watching greatness. I don’t say that lightly.
Justin is Steve Earle’s son, sure. Justin is named partly after his dad’s friend Townes Van Zandt, sure. Both musical legends swim in his blood, alongside all the bits of experience and struggle he’s accumulated. But there is a whole other kind of self-impelled magic that he owns and possesses that is solely his and, whoa — that is unmistakeable when you see him for yourself.
You should add him immediately to the very top of your “must-see live” list. Justin is a consummate storyteller, in the vein of the traveling salesman that rolls into your town with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that twitches with a deep, unseen pleasure that’s unfolding in his brain and he tells stories through his songs. He’s watching worlds that we can’t see. It’s riveting to watch his process from four feet away, as I did. As I said the last time I saw him, “I wouldn’t mess with him, but I’d believe him and let him buy me a drink so he could tell me a story.”
This is a song from his newest album, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (out now on Bloodshot Records), and when he sang it last night by himself under those blue lights, it hung out there in the air and pressed down on me as one of the loveliest, saddest, most perfect songs I’ve heard in a very long time. It’s a simple song about a girl named Anna, and about that longing we’ve been trying to name and wrestle down for a long time. The way he weaves it is breathtaking and timeless — somehow completely young and entirely his own, and also belonging to the ages. Like all of his songs.
[last night's setlist]