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Justin Townes Earle: Midnight at the Movies

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With Amy LaVere, 6 and 9 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999 or www.mcgonigels.com.

Opening with the lonesome, Randy ­Newman-esque title track, Justin Townes Earle's sophomore effort Midnight At The Movies sees Steve's son moving further away from the debut The Good Life's folksy twang and diving headlong into alt-­country and gutbucket blues. Earle's new characters are devoid of the swagger exhibited on the first LP, instead populating penitent, introspective sketches that can be painful and utterly universal. The Leon Redbone stylings on "What I Mean to You" ache for feminine resolution, whereas the rounder on The Good Life would have tipped his wide-brimmed hat and gone on his jaunty way. "Mama's Eyes" has received the most attention, honestly chronicling Earle's family situation, specifically his strained relationship with his father. A cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" replaces Paul Westerberg's raggedy guitar lines with a rollicking mandolin and a twinkle not heard on the 'Mats original. The ending punches of "Someday I'll Be Forgiven for This" and "Here We Go Again" are small-scale romantic snifflers that could well be made into movies themselves. Here Earle finally makes use of all the influences in his name, but most importantly he's mastering the identity of his own.

 
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