After years spent playing vintage guitars, Justin Townes Earle decided he wanted something new. “I got tired of fans coming up and asking me what kind of guitar I was playing, and having to tell them it was a $6,000 guitar,” Earle says. “I wanted a working guitar, where I could tell people, ‘It’s under $1,000. And you can easily find one.’ So I just bought a Loar LO-16, and that’s what I’m playing. It’s a small-body guitar with a pickguard, similar to the Gibson L-00, and it’s loud. Really loud. It’s got a great balance, not too high and not too low, with a neck that’s wide without being super-wide. As far as playing goes, the string reaction is great, and there’s absolutely no delay. You strike the string and hear the note immediately.” --From Acoustic Guitar Magazine September 2012
Those who’ve followed Earle’s growth since releasing his debut EP Yuma in 2007 won’t be surprised he’s shooting off in another direction. For an artist whose list of influences runs the gamut from Randy Newman to Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker to the Replacements, and Phil Ochs to Bruce Springsteen, categories are useless. “Great songs are great songs,” Earle says. “If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place.”
Perhaps then it’s also not surprising Earle chose a converted church in Asheville, NC to record Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Recorded completely live (no overdubs) over a four-day period with Harlem River Blues co-producer Skylar Wilson, the album sheds the rockabilly bravado of previous records in favor of a confident, raw, and vulnerable sound. Says Earle, “the whole idea was to record everything live, making everything as real as it could be, and putting something out there that will hopefully stand the test of time and space.” The result: songs like “Down on the Lower East Side” and “Unfortunately, Anna” are equally timely and timeless. The former finds Earle channeling his Closing Time era Tom Waits while the latter echoes the dirges of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. That said, gentle heartbreakers like the album’s title track and “Am I That Lonely Tonight” are uniquely Earle, solidifying his role as one of this generation’s greatest songwriters.
Earle appeared on The David Letterman Show with his LO-16 playing “Look the Other Way."
Watch The David Letterman Show performance here.
Preview tracks off his latest album here.
Photo Credit: Jim LaPlaca