Outlaw country rocker and folkie Justin Townes Earle recently released an iTunes digital 45 of new single “Christchurch Woman” b/w a cover of the classic Bruce Springsteen ballad “Racing In The Street”.
“Christchurch Woman” first appeared as the side two opener to Earle’s phenomenal 2010 release, Harlem River Blues. The May 23 release of the song as a new single accompanied the news of an additional leg of Earle’s summer tour which kicked off at Hangout Music Festival and will now extend until the dog days of end August. Equally exciting is the news of two Americana Music Association nominations for Album of the Year for Harlem River Blues and Song of the Year for the albums’ title track.
“Christchurch Woman” slides its hooks in effortlessly with a modest foot-tapping beat and packs its punch in Earle’s skillful use of simultaneously earnest and sharp-tongued lyrics. His penchant for dexterously juggling somber moods and stinging, rebel attitude has been evident in every one of his releases from The Good Life to Midnight at the Movies to Harlem River Blues. The mood and the attitude are both strikingly present on “Christchurch Woman” in unfussy lyrics like “I’ve always been a fool for conversation and a couple of smokes. When I’m feeling this blue, I just need someone to laugh at all my jokes” and the honest and unsympathetic “She may be pretty, but someday I’ll get sick of her shit”. It’s a simple, pensive track of Friday night desolation waiting around on an attractive but unlikely love, but as Earle reminds us “there’s always hope for another day.”
“Racing in the Street”, the B-side of “Christchurch Woman”, is a gorgeously sparse and haunting cover of the Darkness on the Edge of Town gem. Though Earle’s take is steeply rooted in Springsteen’s original, he strips the song down to its barest bones with none of the (tiny) frills Springsteen’s ’78 original had (the melancholy piano, the metronome beat, the hum of the vocal harmony that becomes a dense wind pushing against Springsteen’s vocals). Earle incorporates the same mood in a touching homage, but he uses nothing in his arsenal except for The Boss’s devastating lyrics, an acoustic guitar and his spoken word delivery. Earle’s “Racing in the Street” is a perfectly unaffected, folk cover of a three decades old nugget and a fitting and timely release on the coattails of Earle’s phenomenal Harlem River Blues (and Springsteen’s jaw-dropping, all-encompassing The Promise).
Words by Justin Wesley