There ain't no running from the legacy of his names. But Justin Townes Earle's first two releases suggest he may (eventually) measure up to the heritage of his father Steve Earle and namesake troubadour Townes Van Zandt. His sophomore album, Midnight at the Movies, while still in thrall at times to an old-timey sound, feels more polished and fully formed than last year's The Good Life. Like his pop, he's infused a rock 'n' roll ethos into country-rock, though Justin favors more traditional (the honky-tonk "Poor Fool") and Bakersfield blends (hooker ode "Black Eyed Suzy"). From the title track's laconic, cabaret-pop paean to the torchy piano ballad "Someday I'll Be Forgiven for This" to his cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," Midnight shows a more modern sensibility than The Good Life. There's no filler in all dozen songs, but the easy standout is "Mama's Eyes," whose title offers a sly joke on Justin's legacy. "I am my father's son, I've never known when to shut up," Justin confesses, acknowledging they've never seen eye-to-eye ("I'll be the first to admit I haven't tried") and have gone down the same sin-filled road (read: heroin addiction), before noting with a dash of superiority, "but I was younger then."
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.