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Keep Houston Press Free
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Aftermath: Justin Townes Earle at McGonigel's Mucky Duck

Earle has a personality that fits his honky-tonk, ragtime, '40s-'50s country sound. Every tune was introduced with a witty Western quip - the harmonica-led sawdusted ditty "South Georgia Sugar Babe" was preceded with a story about a nurse who worked in a methadone clinic Earle stayed in: "She fit the puzzle I was workin' on at the time," he said in a slow, Southern drawl.

Earle knew how to play to the uptight Duck crowd as he breezed through a collection of originals from his debut The Good Life and samples from next March's Midnight at the Movies LP. He also paid homage to his influences, and did them justice, with a fair amount of covers like Lightnin' Hopkins' "I Been Burning Bad Gasoline," Bo Carter's "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me" and the unexpected "Can't Hardly Wait" by The Replacements (which appears on Movies). 

A lady in our party asked, "Why did you sell standing tickets if we can't stand anywhere?" to which a hospitable employee responded "If you don't like it, get a refund." Nice.

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Maybe Aftermath is just getting old, but she remembers a time when she liked to move around to watch a band, who in turn preferred to have an audience able to respond to the music with more than a nodded head. Earle's music fit perfectly, or would have - two-step-ready tunes about drinkin', messin' around with no-good women and getting into all sorts of trouble.

But by the last round of tunes, the standers couldn't take it. By the back door, we two-stepped and polkaed, and got a thank-you from Earle and company. Performances are a two-way street and Earle didn't need us to make him any better, but any musician likes to see they're appreciated.

Hopefully, next time Earle will stop over at a place with a dance floor. Aftermath is looking your way, Continental Club - tell the cover bands they can have the night off. - Dusti Rhodes

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