Monday, November 19, 2012

Justin Townes Earle and Tift Merritt heat up Cat's Cradle

Photos by Justin Weber
A chilly and damp Thursday night welcomed one of the best double bills an Americana fan could ask for in Tift Merritt and Justin Townes Earle.

Merritt opened the show with a thunderous set. Those who though Merritt would be the calm counter part to Earle’s mischief were wrong. In her hour on stage, Merritt rarely let up and played big numbers that she could sink her teeth into. Between songs she expressed her genuine happiness to be home in North Carolina.

While most of her set consisted of tune from her most recent album, Traveling Alone, one of the highlights of her performance was an intense redition of 2004’s soulful “Good Hearted Man.”

Justin Townes Earle is a fascinating performer. Early in the set, he seemed like a guy so talented he could get away with going through the motions. His vocals didn’t have the heft one would expect and he seemed somewhat reserved.

Then he played “I Been Burning Bad Gasoline,” a roaring blues made famous by Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins. Earle said he’d been playing the song nearly every show for 10 years and saw no reason to stop. That must be because we he plays this song, he transforms. He scrowls and he growls and his guitar playing makes you wonder how the hell he’s creating all that sound.

After that, the rest of his set was great. Tift Merritt joined for “Harlem River Blues” and the audience sang along. Before, “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now,” the sly Earle explained how wrote little inside jokes into the song knowing that the woman he wrote the song about would hear them and cringe. This made him "all warm and fuzzy inside," he smirked.

His touring band was stelling and locked in. Just don’t call them country musicians. Earle thinks country music lost its way when it lost touch with the blues and that it’s too far gone now.

“I don’t play country music,” he said, “I play American music.”

Tift Merritt set list
Sweet Spot
Traveling Alone
To Myself
Small Talk Relations
Drifting Apart
Hopes Too High
Bramble Rose
Good Hearted Man
Still Not Home
Too Soon To Go

Justin Townes Earle set list
Look The Other Way
Move Over Mama
Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving
Mama’s Eyes
One More Night In Brooklyn
Ain’t Waiting
Am I That Lonely Tonight?
Bad Gasoline (Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins cover)
Unfortunately, Anna
Harlem River Blues
Midnight At The Movies
Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
Baby’s Got A Bad Idea
Black Eyed Suzy
Rogers Park
Slippin’ and Slidin’
Down South (Tom Petty cover)
Can’t Hardly Wait (The Replacements cover)

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