Justin Townes Earle Rocks Pollak

The soulful Justin Townes Earle made his way to Pollak Theatre at the University this past Saturday, March 9. The blues inspired country-alternative singer nearly packed the theater and the charming country artist Tift Merritt was there to open for his performance. The show was originally scheduled for November 4 and had been rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy.

Merritt opened with her powerful yet soft acoustic song “Sunday” off of Bramble Rose. She appeared to be running off of nervous energy and halfway into her set she accidentally told the audience how great it was to be in Red Bank. Merritt bounced back and explained that she’s been on tour for a while so it’s been hectic keeping up with the names of different towns. She continued with a heartfelt performance and played some tunes off of her record Traveling Alone released back in October 2012. “It’s my favorite thing in the whole world to play in a theatre with well behaved people,” Merritt said to the crowd before closing with “Another Country.”

After intermission, Earle took the stage and was welcomed with a warm round of applause from the audience. He fired off with his quick guitar finger picking and began singing “They Killed John Henry” off of Midnight At the Movies. He performed a variety of numbers from his discography including tracks like “Maria” from his upcoming album Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now due for release on March 27, 2013 with Bloodshot Records. Earle also announced early on that he’s in the middle of writing a new record and will start recording this May.

In blues music, there’s something about the live performance that conveys more depth and soul than it ever could on a record, the same held true for Earle’s performance that night. Some would describe Earle’s music as alternative country driven by blues-rock, even though Earle might disagree on the definition of country. “The reason why country is no good no more is because it lost its connection to the blues,” Earle stated.

He kept the audiences attention by switching up the tempo of his set. One second we were engaged in the full sound of the band and the next we were captivated by Earle with just his guitar and blues licks. “You can put a blues lick pretty much anywhere, you just gotta own it,” Earle teased. He went on to explain how even though happy songs piss him off, they “don’t have to be all sad and teary.”

“This is the fist time I’ve seen him live. He seemed really genuine and real,” said audience member Tiffany Woodward of Woodbridge, NJ. Near the end of his performance, he was given a standing ovation and called back to the stage to play an encore of three songs.

Liz O’Connell-Thompson of Navesink, NJ expressed that she has been a big fan for a while and admires his style of music. “I’ve seen him a lot of times, this was the fist time I saw him perform his new songs,” said O’Connel-Thompson, referring to the songs off of Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. She went on to explain how she was glad the show was rescheduled.

Stephanie Solomonsen, also from Navesink, NJ, said, “This is the second time I’ve seen him. I liked this setting a lot more, it was a lot more intimate.” Solomonsen commented that she also agreed with Earle’s statement about country music.

Whether you call it alternative, blues or country Earle holds true to his own style. “When you grew up in Nashville, Tennessee you’re allowed to get sick of country. This ain’t country,” said Earle. For more on Earle visit www.JustinTownesEarle.com.