Justin Townes Earle

Justin Townes Earle

On a rainy Nashville Thursday last October, Justin Townes Earle leapt onstage at the famed Ryman Auditorium to accept the 2011 Americana Music Award for Song of the Year. The triumphant evening capped a turbulent twelve months for the gifted young musician categorized by significant hardship as well as notable achievement including debut performances at New York's Carnegie Hall and on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Just one week later, Earle retreated to the western mountains of North Carolina to record his next album, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – an intriguing title given the importance of change in Earle's approach to art. "I think it's the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learning more," he says. "The new record is completely different than my last one, Harlem River Blues. This time I've gone in a Memphis-soul direction."
Those who've followed Earle's growth since releasing his debut EP Yuma in 2007 won't be surprised he's shooting off in another direction. For an artist whose list of influences runs the gamut from Randy Newman to Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker to the Replacements, and Phil Ochs to Bruce Springsteen, categories are useless.
"Great songs are great songs," Earle says. "If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place."
Perhaps then it's also not surprising Earle chose a converted church in Asheville, NC to record Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Recorded completely live (no overdubs) over a four-day period with Harlem River Blues co-producer Skylar Wilson, the album sheds the rockabilly bravado of previous records in favor of a confident, raw, and vulnerable sound. Says Earle, "the whole idea was to record everything live, making everything as real as it could be, and putting something out there that will hopefully stand the test of time and space."
The result: songs like "Down on the Lower East Side" and "Unfortunately, Anna" are equally timely and timeless. The former finds Earle channeling Closing Time era Tom Waits while the latter echoes the dirges of Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. That said, gentle heartbreakers like the album's title track and "Am I That Lonely Tonight" are uniquely Earle, solidifying his role as one of his generation's greatest songwriters.
Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now comes out
March 27th via Bloodshot Records.

Cindy Woolf & Mark Bilyeu

Cindy Woolf’s voice, once you hear it, is not one you are likely to forget. Do not think for a minute that the rural accent that comes through her high, crystal-clear tone is contrived. Cindy Woolf was born in North Little Rock, but spent most of her formative years in Batesville, Arkansas. She grew up singing with her family in church, learning to sing harmony by ear and absorbing her daddy’s bluegrass records. 3 Apples High, a punk band she formed with two girlfriends in high school, didn’t last long, but certainly demonstrated that there was more to this budding musician than hymns. After moving to Springfield, Missouri to attend college she started playing a weekly gig downtown at the Bar Next Door, singing bluegrass standards and singer-songwriter standouts and getting noticed by her musical peers, among them producer/guitarist Mark Bilyeu, who encouraged her to record an album of original material. After relocating to Portland, Oregon, she returned to Springfield for two weeks to do just that, resulting in the 10 originals and two covers on her debut CD Simple and Few. Cindy kept the recording sessions sparse and largely acoustic, drawing help from friends and label mates including Bilyeu (Big Smith), Reed Herron (Speakeasy), David Wilson (Radio Flyer), Dave Harp (Arkamo Rangers), Dallas Jones, Brandon Moore and Molly Healey (Moore-Healey). She ventured beyond the traditional sounds that earned her reputation to put forth her more gentle and atmospheric songs that would sit comfortably next to your Iron and Wine LPs or even your old Sundays CDs. The inspiration for songs like the sisterly “Dearest Pearl” hearkens back not only to her native Arkansas but also a couple of generations, with pieces of lyrics directly transcribed from her grandmother’s diary. Simple and Few does boast some bluegrass-flavored standouts, including Cindy’s own “Nobody’s Wife.” But whether the songs are informed by the traditional, ethereal or surreal makes no difference. A sense of authenticity surrounds this young new artist, and it rings through, clear as a bell, on Simple and Few.

As part of the Ozarks family band Big Smith, Mark Bilyeu has served as de facto front man for the band of five cousins, although songwriting and lead vocal duties have always been divided between his brother and cousins. Big Smith has released 5 CDs: two studio recordings of original material, two live CDs (one in a church, the other in a bar) and a celebrated double CD for kids. Since 1996, Big Smith has toured extensively, exposing many thousands to Bilyeu’s guitar playing, singing and songwriting.
In January of 2005 Bilyeu began working on an album of his own. Recorded at Route 1 Recording in southern Mississippi, First One Free finds Bilyeu moving from the primarily acoustic hillbilly-bluegrass sound of Big Smith to something more akin to country-folk-rock (choose what ever hyphenated term you like). He enlists some well-known Mississippi musicians to back him up in the studio, including guitarist Cary Hudson (ex-Blue Mountain, now touring solo), drummer Ted Gainey (Blue Mountain, Kudzu Kings, Cary Hudson trio), and lap steel guitarist Max Williams (Taylor Grocery Band, Thacker Mountain Radio). Likewise the album reflects the distinctly southern country and blues influences of its players. To keep a taste of home, yet another of Bilyeu’s cousins, Bill Thomas, plays bass guitar and sings backup on the record. The sessions were relaxed and easy. Bilyeu not only was able to stretch out on the electric guitar, trading licks with his mentor and guitar hero Hudson, but also explored new territory on the piano and Hammond organ. To recreate the sounds of First One Free on the road, Bilyeu has enlisted the talents of Thomas and two other musicians from his native Springfield, Missouri: keyboardist Joe Terry (Dave Alvin, Robbie Fulks, The Skeletons) and drummer John Anderson (Barefoot Revolution, The Osmonds). The versatility and virtuosity of these new musicians will certainly push the music into new and exciting directions on stage.

$18 - $40

Tickets Available at the Door

Tickets are $18 in Advance and $20 on the Day of Show. MINORS: $2 cash surcharge at the door for anyone under the age of 21.

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The Blue Note (MO)

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Justin Townes Earle with Cindy Woolf & Mark Bilyeu

Thursday, May 2 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Blue Note (MO)

Tickets Available at the Door