Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Yes, he’s the son of Steve Earle, and yes, he has access to the top session players and studios east of the Mississippi so right off the bat the bar is set, perhaps a little unfairly, high. His recent tour to these shores left a wake of converts and many of those who saw him rouse and hush the Hepburn Springs Palais will be keen to get their hands on this follow-up album to The Good Life. That’s the great thing about country music, you always know what you’re going to get; a variation on a theme. The listening public don’t take too kindly to someone messing with the formula (see Garth Brookes’ brave but unsuccessful reinvention as Chris Gaines).
Smoothly played and produced Midnight At The Movies somehow never sounds too polished which is testament to his ability to ride country, rock, bluegrass and folk idioms with his strong Tennessean twang. Opening with the slackly paced Rhodes-driven swagger of the title track that flirts with Springsteen-mumble and evokes a dreamy feeling effectively. His cover of The Replacements’ Can’t Hardly Wait doesn’t mess with the original’s arrangement and it breezes by pleasantly, though it’s heavier rhythm stands out against the brushed beats of the other songs. Pleasant, is, in fact, the word you could use to describe the whole album. Though not without some grit (They Killed John Henry and Soon I’ll be Forgiven for This treat their grave subject matters gravely), a great arrangement on Halfway To Jackson and the opening title track, it’s burnished production and slick packaging keeps his eye fixed squarely on ‘crossover’ appeal.
Midnight At The Movies maintains Earle’s reputation as an impressive songwriter regardless of genre, and he covers a lot of popular touchstones that though no new ground is really broken. Having said that it would be perfect for the drive to Daylesford to catch him next time he plays there.