Fresh off the success of his recently released album, Single Mothers, Justin Townes Earle announced the companion album Absent Fathers to be released January 13, 2015. Also comprised of 10 tracks, Absent Fathers was recorded alongside Single Mothers as a double album, but as Justin began to sequence it, he felt each half needed to make its own statement and they took on their own identities. A complete track list can be found below.
In describing Single Mothers, NPR describes the album as "...mov[ing] between evocative portraits of place set in knotty emotional frames, prickly confessions of destructive patterns, and melancholic eloquence in the wake of short-lived love affairs." The Sun UK hailed the album, noting "Justin's songcraft is fast maturing and this is a concise exercise in laying emotions bare," while No Depression summed up Justin's career by saying " No longer needing to beg for attention, he's built a career that's brought him critical acclaim and a well-deserved reputation for consistent artistic integrity."
Single Mothers was released on September 9, 2014 via Vagrant Records and, combined with Absent Fathers, the double album perfectly showcases exactly why Justin Townes Earle is considered a forefather of Contemporary Americana.
Once compared to a man who wears many suits, in thirty-two short years Justin Townes Earle has experienced more than most, both personally and professionally. Between releasing four full-length-critically-acclaimed albums, constant touring, multiple stints in rehab, a new found sobriety, being born Steve Earle's son, amicable and not-so-amicable break-ups with record labels, and facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life, it's safe to say JTE has quite the story to tell. His fifth album (and first ever on Vagrant Records) serves as the perfect platform for such narrations.
As a recently married, sober man JTE writes from a point of maturity and content we've not seen before on past records. "One day I just realized it's not cool to die young, and it's even less cool to die after 30," Justin states as he reflects on a life past and his newly found clarity. What he's created is material that's raw, honest and personal in a way he hasn't touched upon since his debut EP, Yuma.
Co-produced along side longtime engineer Adam Bednarik, Single Mothers and Absent Fathers shine in a world of pop-culture driven Americana records. "I don't really know what Americana means anymore," Justin laughs. "That's not a slant on Americana, it's just become a very unclassifiable genre. It's gone seemingly pop. There are good parts to that, but it's getting to a point where it won't be able to redeem itself if it doesn't slow down. Just like everything that gets popular." With his heart and soul still rooted in Nashville, Single Mothers and Absent Fathers show Justin's continued combination of catchy songs and authenticity.
The albums were recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment. In fact, his songs "Picture in a Drawer" and "It's Cold in This House" are only Justin, his guitar and his pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.
"As I've gotten older my anger comes from a very different place. It's more rational and mature. I guess that comes along with clarity," JTE reflects. Single Mothers and Absent Fathers find Justin dealing with past struggles and anger with more ease than ever before. Creating a nostalgic feeling with the return to his signature sound, JTE takes listeners on a journey through some of his most personal stories yet on what can only be described as an authentic country records.
The past may be prologue, but for John Mark Nelson, the present is something else entirely: a gateway into a new era of life and the new sound that defines his upcoming album, I'm Not Afraid. Having released two critically lauded albums of melodic, lilting folk songs the ages of 17 and 19, Nelson, now 21, is set to take listeners on a leap forward into a new sonic landscape of propulsive rhythms and bright, complex instrumental arrangements.
"It's impossible to progress through life without the outlets through which you experience life changing in tandem," he says of the shift. "In the past, what might have influenced me was a lot of acoustic instruments–folkier, jangly sounds. But I was pulled into the songs being driven by drums and bass and more adventurous guitar tones. It wasn't that I sat down and said 'I want to make a record that's a departure from what I've done.' It's just that as those things started coming through the speakers, I thought, 'I want to follow that.'"
The smoldering warmth and haunting beauty of Nelson's voice strings a line of continuity from his past work into the new album, as does his astute, literary songwriting. But he confesses that even in his wise-beyond-his-years, autobiographical lyrics, the album marks a passage. "I think if anything, this project–maybe even more so than a sonic departure–is a vulnerability departure," he says. "In the past my writing has, in some ways, been guarded. Now I'm putting all my cards on the table."
In the years since his first release, Nelson has solidified his position as a member of Minnesota's new musical guard. Along with building a small army of loyal fans, he's earned a spot in regular rotation on 89.3 The Current and caught the ears of fellow Minneapolis-based musician David Simonett (lead singer of Trampled by Turtles and co-founder of GNDWIRE Records). Nelson's new work stands him on firm footing to launch into the national consciousness, a move that was primed by nearly a decade of writing, rehearsing, recording and performing–all before he turned 21.
From the irresistible bounce and frustrated romance of the first single, "Dream Last Night," to the clap-along amble of "Broken" and the timeless, elegant sweep of "I Won't Win (If I Let You In)," I'm Not Afraid defies genre and demands attention. As a document of what Nelson calls "a very new, very different season of life," it positions him as one of the most exciting young songwriters and multi-instrumentalists of his generation.
*** PARTIALLY SEATED ***
“Earle has made two distinct albums that manage to succeed both as standalone and complementary works…his newfound confessional streak is alarmingly resonant and refreshing.” – The AV Club