If Justin Townes Earle’s sophomore effort, Midnight at the Movies, falls short in any way, mentioning his Old Man would only serve to exonerate another tiresome venture into music from a kid with a loaded last name. While most country-influenced twenty-somethings craft their lovesick songs inside a familiar bottle of wine, JTE bounces seamlessly from genre to genre, welding the Ink Spots to Hank Williams (“What I Mean to You”, “Poor Fool”), or Louis Jordan and Norman Blake (“Walk Out”, “Black Eyed Suzy”). With a voice that sounds like a farm-spliced Bing Crosby and Strangers Almanac-era Ryan Adams, nothing seems forced, his lyrical savvy therefore all the more accessible.
But what aids Midnight At The Movies in becoming not just a crammed collection of dog-eared influences from the last 80 years of modern music, but rather a complete album, are the songs that sound like, well, Justin Townes Earle. The two standout numbers (aside from the mandolin driven cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait”), the title track and “Mama’s Eyes”, sound so effortless, the immediate thought is that he must be a terrible athlete. Natural ability is specific: No matter how many late nights he tried, Kobe Bryant could not write a song like this. Earle picks the guitar like Richard Thompson on a jug of corn liquor, he has a voice like a Yosemite stream, and he kills a ‘Mats cover with a mandolin. I’m not asking him to play touch football. I’m just asking him to keep making records.
— Colin Thompson