I knew I liked what I heard by Justin Townes Earle, but didn’t know much else about the man before coming to see him at El Rey last night. I also knew his newest record, Nothing’s Gonna Change About the Way You Feel About Me Now, was a drastic departure stylistically from the honky-tonk twang of his last album, Harlem River Blues.
What I was not prepared for was how much I would adore every bit of his performance. Somehow, this tall, gangly singer-songwriter truly affected me as he was on stage, without any gimmicks. During the entire night I felt actual butterflies in my stomach; the kind one would get when you’re on a first date where it’s going really well and you don’t want the connection to end because something truly special is happening.
Justin Townes Earle peppered in stories of his mother and past girlfriends offset with his self-deprecating humor, while placing up-tempo songs in the setlist next to those that were decidedly not. He managed to not let evening drag for even a moment, a sign of someone who really understands how a concert should be paced so that one never loses the attention of the audience.
Accompanying Earle throughout the set was a small band that could create a big sound, most notably Paul Niehaus of Calexico on electric and slide guitar duties.
Here’s hoping a “second” date is just around the corner for Los Angeles.
Currently based in Nashville, singer Tristen and her band started off the evening’s festivities. Photos by Leslie Kalohi.