Between his debut EP Yuma, released in 2007, and 2010’s excellent Harlem River Blues every album released by Justin Townes Earle was better than the previous. However, his new one, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, Earle’s self-proclaimed “daddy issues” record, puts an end to that impressive streak. Where Harlem River Blues approached greatness, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now seems satisfied with merely being a good record and the end result does not reach the highs promised by its predecessor.
Nothing’s Gonna Change… is without a doubt a fine album, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad track on it – simply because there isn’t one. Once again Earle works within the confines of modern alt. country Americana, and he does so with great success. The classic, pre-1960s country influence that had a heavy influence on his first two records is largely gone here, instead replaced by a distinct southern soul sound which at times elevates a track (“Down on the Lower East Side”) and at times is superfluous (“Baby’s Got A Bad Idea”).
Earle’s main strength has always been his ability to tell personal stories that affect the listener and performing them in a way that elevates them to a universal level, as on “Look the Other Way.” That is exactly the main strength of Nothing’s Gonna Change…, an album where Earle is not writing the strongest songs of his career musically but lyrically he is as good as he has ever been, if not better. The album is filled with personal stories, often regarding his father or relationships, and Earle’s got one of the best voices in Americana right now – smooth and rough at the same time, and with ability to convey feelings better than any of his contemporaries.
All in all, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now is a good record, but it’s not success it could have been as the songs are not as strong as one would have hoped. Following Harlem River Blues this is a more even record, but there is not a single song here that can compete with Harlem River Blues standouts “Roger’s Park” or “Christchurch Woman.” Despite not reaching those highs, Earle is definitely not stagnating as lyrically he is more consistent than ever, and if the next album is as good lyrically as this one and as strong musically as Harlem River Blues it could easily become a classic in singer-songwriter alt. country.
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