Justin Townes Earle took the stage Saturday night at the Royale for a packed solo show, just him and his guitar. “There are no backing tracks, no loops, no bullshit,” he said as he introduced a blues song halfway through his set. His 17-song set introduced six new
songs off his upcoming fifth studio album that Earle said is coming out March 24th. He didn’t
say much else besides, “you’ll hear about it soon enough.”
All of the new songs sounded right in line with his previous work. They spoke of passing through Memphis in the rain, relationships coming and going, lonely nights, and moving on. But Earle played all of the crowd favorites, too. In a chambray shirt rolled up past his elbows, wire-rimmed frames and a newsies cap, Earle had the crowd stomping in their seats from the very start of They Killed John Henry, which he dedicated to his grandaddy. Earle also spoke warmly of his mama before he played Mama’s Eyes.
A handful of tracks off of his most recent Harlem River Blues also brought loud applause, and it was the Lightnin’ Hopkins cover of My Starter Won’t Start that really seemed to captivate the crowd. Watching Earle’s fingerpicking
on the blues track, and really all of his songs for that matter, is entirely hypnotizing.
For the show, the Royale set out chairs on the floor, and
the stage was flanked by white christmas trees, and christmas lights draped over the balconies. For once, the huge venue that headlines some of the larger indie bands that come through Boston, felt intimate. Earle stopped long enough in between songs to tell us some anecdotes about his family, songwriting, and life. “When I write a song the only thing that crosses my mind and the only thing that matters to me is whether Woody Guthrie would have liked it,” he said to introduce one of the last songs of the night, Wanderin’.
Near the end of the show, Earle brought down Tristen and her friend and sometimes bandmate Buddy to sing the title track off Harlem River Blues as the crowd clapped, stomped and sang along.
Tristen, a fellow Nashville singer/songwriter opened with ten tracks off of her 2011 release Charlatans at the Garden Gate. Starting off with Eager for Your Love, Tristen made her way through a number of well-written songs accompanied by her wide-ranging voice and guitar. All in all, Tristen pairs well with Justin Townes Earle. She pulls off the younger sister vibe, as her songwriting and stage demeanor were the perfect prelude to a night with Justin Townes Earle. If you haven’t already bought her album, definitely check it out. It’s definitely one of 2011’s best.