‘Wish I could say I know you/’cause lord, I Wanna Understand/Need you to now there’s nothing I want more in this world as a man.’
If you kick off you latest album with those words, and then call it Absent Fathers, then you are pretty clearly laying out your agenda. Justin Townes Earle is the son of country helllraiser Steve Earle who left his mom when he was only 2, but also gave him his middle name in honour of his godfather – the boozy maverick Townes Van Zandt.
Farther From me is typical of the whole album in being lyrically direct to the point of making you squirm a bit, but they are some of the best tunes Townes has written. So there’s some lovely blues on aptly named Least I Got The Blues, a bit of honky tonk on the messy Round the Bend and some more straight country sounds on the mournful Slow Monday.
Mind you, he needed to make peace with his demons as he even managed to get kicked out of his old man’s touring band which takes some doing I suspect.
The centrepoint is the brutally honest, and quite beautiful for all that, When The One You Love Loses Faith, which is about how mothers who must have suffered like all moms do when their kids go off rails, but in Justin’s case in quite a public way. But it could equally be about any of the people no doubt left staring at him in despair before he before he sobered up.
This album was meant to be a double album with last year’s Single Mothers, but he decided to separate them. That was the right decision, as it is the better record, and because it honestly explores the sadness of being abandoned and alone.