Justin Townes Earle’s fifth studio album Single Mothers sees the American singer and songwriter continue his career in creating mulled cocktails of folk, blues and country sounds.
The result is a collection of subdued reveries that tend to contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Newly married and successfully maintaining sobriety – Earle brings fresh insight to these questions – making this album stand out lyrically from previous releases.
Most tracks are dominated by a duet between Earle’s mellowed voice and an ethereal sounding electric guitar that have the capacity to induce some form of drowsiness. Even more the more lively songs remain somewhat laidback – such as Time Shows Fools, the first single released off the new album. Earle’s debut track features lyrics that are a mixture of cynicism and melancholia – watered down by the delicacy of Earle’s voice and the hopeful murmurs of his support band. The piquant, high-pitched, plucked electric guitar and steady drum pattern buzz with an untapped energy muffled by Earle’s voice. Similarly the chirpiness of My Baby Drives – a tribute to Earle’s country music roots – is coated by Earle’s honeyed lyrics with the effect not unlike curtains filtering sunlight into a room. For this reason, Single Mothers has the capacity to induce a kind of lethargy similar to the feeling after eating a massive meal that makes you want to crash on a couch and watch TV for the next three hours.
Despite this drowsiness, it is the slower songs on the album that truly demonstrate Earle’s musicianship. The distant background instruments in quietly passionate songs such as Picture in a Draw leaves you drifting in a pool of emotion, guided by the added emphasis placed on Earle’s soulful voice. The plucking of an electric guitar echoes in the background to make the experience all the more otherworldly. The effect is replicated in the albums title track Single Mothers, featuring a piquant guitar ostinato that whispers with Earle’s country music influences and ultimately adds to the emotion of the song. Your head is wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of sound and implanted with pictures of a brooding man on a farm in the midst of facing a significant turning point in life.
The lyrics of Single Mothers are deeply personal, and in some ways the musical composition throughout the album fails to do justice to the emotive content of the lyrics. Regardless, Earle has added another gem to his growing discography that would make the perfect soundtrack to anyone in the process of coming of age.