A horn section lends Justin Townes Earle's fourth LP a Memphis-soul feel, which is less a departure than a shift in emphasis. Thematically, he continues his chronicle of a life balanced (barely) on the edge. Love is elusive; the legacy of his father, Steve Earle, is a blessing and a curse, and the road exhausts and exhilarates. That Earle breathes life into those well-worn ideas is a tribute to the rough-hewn elegance of his writing and his voice. He recorded this album live in studio, but what comes across is control as much as immediacy. That's because, as always with him, songcraft is a means of conveying and containing emotions that might otherwise be unbearable.
• Photos: Random Notes