Justin Townes Earle & Jason Isbell @ the Corner
Jason Isbell’s voice defies his aesthetic. Not that there’s anything wrong with the bloke to look at, but he’s kind of ordinary. You know? Like the Pixies are the most unassuming folk you’ve ever seen, or Daniel Johnstone—well not really like Daniel, he’s a bit different. More like an ethereal being has leant its voice to an average guy—quite the treat.
And as for Justin Townes Earle, whoa doggy! He’s a beast. He’s a lanky, gangly, awkward lumber of a man, but oh so fuckin cool. With a lineage like his (son of Steve, stepson of Allison Moorer, namesake of country god Townes Van Zandt) you’d expect goodness. Or maybe you’d expect pretence?
What you get with Townes Earle are wonderfully constructed country narratives. Whether you buy in to the myth of the guy (mal-adjustment due to absent famous father a fast-track to criminality and heroin addiction), the tunes are testament to a true talent.
Opener They Killed John Henry brought the freakin’ house down and set the pace for a slightly more rock and roll JTE performance. Isbell backed up beautifully and injected a marvellous vocal harmony element to the songs. It’s a brave man that employs the backing vocals of the likes of Isbell, but Earle seized control and stole the finger picking prize for the night during a stomping rendition of Halfway to Jackson, it was nothing short of jaw dropping.
As a comparison to a largely solo Blues Fest performance at Easter, this night’s show revealed a far less reserved musician and demonstrated clearly the depth and breadth of his arrangements. The level of enjoyment shown by both performers was indicative of two musicians clearly at the tops of their games. Or better still, and hopefully for our sakes, two musicians firmly on the rise.