Album Review: Justin Townes Earle - "Kids In The Street"
It’s 2017 and Justin Townes Earle is a happily married man. The word, “happily” probably would have came as a surprise a couple of years ago. Always an excellent songwriter, there is usually a constant angst in the tone of Earle’s songs. That’s not to say they’re not beautiful songs, but perhaps that underlying anxiety adds to the gut-wrenching aspect. He never hides from his personal story and where alcohol, drugs and lingering issues with his famous songwriter father, Steve Earle, were a significant part of his past, it seems like he has finally left those things in the past.
Kids In The Street is a collection of songs that are uniquely Justin Townes Earle’s, yet a refreshing change of pace. He seems happy and content with his current life. As a Nashville native, he has been more than outspoken about the abrupt changes happening to that fair city over the years in tweets or interviews, but modern-day Justin just writes a song about it. In the title track, a nostalgic acoustic story of playing ball after school in 1993, he reminisces fondly: “Those weren’t better days, but they still meant something to me, when we were kids out in the streets.” .
Throughout the 12-track record (13 if you count the Paul Simon cover bonus track, "Graceland"), the tone is noticeably lighter than previous efforts. It’s equal parts New Orleans jaunt, ragtime, and vintage folk. Earle’s goal has long been to pay homage to traditional music while pushing it forward into modern times, and Kids In The Street achieves this.
All the songs on the record are vastly different from each other which makes Kids In The Street repeatedly enjoyable. Earle’s southern delivery and knack for storytelling can make the least interesting events still good skeletons for songs. In this case, a positive mindset breathes a whole new, yet familiar feeling into these songs.