Absent Fathers

Few can dispute that Justin Townes Earle, son of country-rocker Steve Earle, is one hell of a gifted songwriter, and that his turbulent life has provided fodder for a number of piercing songs. His latest release, Absent Fathers—which comes four months after its companion piece, Single Mothers, was released—accentuates both of these points. Of course, there are two sides to every breakup, and if Mothers was more of the female's perspective, then Fathers is the lay of the land from the guy's side. Spare, largely unadorned instrumentation fills the record, particularly on country tracks like “Why” and the acoustic-blues number “When the One You Love Loses Faith,” allowing for the stories of love, loss and lament to take center stage. Whether he is insightfully telling an all-too-familiar tale about being the latest sucker to fall for a woman's wiles (“Least I Got the Blues”), or examining what makes us so perfectly imperfect (“Day and Night”), Earle's unfiltered musings are raw and on-point. A couple of classic-rock tracks—including the Skynyrd-ish “Round the Bend”—liven up this mostly contemplative collection that succeeds by focusing more on the beauty of subtlety, rather than the bombast of rock 'n' roll.