An Open Letter…

To the person whose eyes choose to read these sentences,

Greetings. You may or may not know some small piece of the “creative me” via prior posts on this website as you give these current words a scan. At this point its more likely the latter as I’ve been absent since last year, AKA the start of pandemic times.

A combination of slow recovery from right wrist surgery, the changing of the world amid COVID, and a mix of so many of my anxieties kept me far from the computer; glued instead to the undersides of blankets and mind-blanketing side hustles. Fears… they don’t easily go back in the box when life changes radically. At least in my experience.

But I’m not here to magically say I’m better from those wounds now and have returned to become 100% myself again either. Its more a “one situation at a time” kind of vibe where some moments outweigh handling others during a pandemic. I will however say in these currently backward days that seem so unfit to be called something as futuristic-sounding as 2021, it feels wrong to allow time to win and freely pass while only being able to lay in the fetal position staring at its back as it gradually fades away.

So while I can’t perhaps provide the exact essentials many folks need right now, I’m still a writer here to entertain with creativity when I’m able to do so. And I can still do what I’ve always loved best: supporting musicians who just need a signal boost and a voice to listen and help spread the word. Sometimes the best thing we can do as humans (virus or no virus) is to give each other a hand up.

And better to do it sooner rather than later, because most of all we know is finite. The full name for this site (On The Back Edge of the Beat) came from singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle and a random piece of stage banter I happened to see of his on Youtube that ultimately inspired the title. That was all it took to start this project, and as small as it is I’ve always been thankful to JTE for that idea lightbulb.

Sadly, we lost Justin in August 2020 at only age 38. I haven’t had the words to describe how that’s felt since I learned it happened, other than I miss him and I wish it hadn’t had to occur of course. Especially for the sake of his wife and young daughter.

Moments like that have made me realize that its okay to slow down during these times, preserve strength and heal your wounds. However, you can’t just stop the car and hide because that’s easier than life’s potential fortune of possible cruelty. That’s a lesson I’m still working out on the days it feels easier to just be sad or depressed, but I plan to return to do what I do best on this site again, with a small tweak.

I’m now changing the email for all submissions to cwhedden@yahoo.com. Its a more direct means of contact that’s easier to handle right now.

Hopefully this is just the start of more to come in the days to follow.

All the best,

Album Review, Justin Townes Earle “Absent Fathers”

jte_absent_lpjacket

Music lovers and fans of folky alt-country stylings discovered they were in for a treat when Justin Townes Earle announced a September 2014 release for his then-latest LP Single Mothers. More exciting still was that the announcement of an immediate January  2015 followup (entitled Absent Fathers) was printed directly within the vinyl release’s download card. The albums were intended as companion pieces to each other, and given the delay between releases following Earle’s label dispute with brief partner Communion Records, it didn’t seem shocking to find a pileup of music ready once the smoke cleared.

And while that sort of news seems exciting on the surface (especially for an artist as solidly consistent as JTE), the payoff has been… lukewarm at best. Mothers delivered some of that classic heartbreak storytelling Earle is known for on tracks like Picture In a Drawer and White Gardenias, but Fathers flounders under the realization that it’s TOO much like it’s predecessor. Almost a b-side version of it in fact.

One of the best things about Earle over the span of his career arc has been the ability to effectively chameleon his way into different sounds from one release to another. On Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now it was brassy Memphis blues, with Midnight At The Movies it was classic country blended with rootsy folk, and on Harlem River Blues it was all that with a hearty shot of rockabillied rock’n’roll layered in between.  Absent Fathers just follows the lead of Single Mothers and consists of Earle either singing solo (which is when the album arguably works best) or surrounded by a session band of simple drums, bass and guitar.

And while there’s nothing wrong with KISS (keep it simple stupid), it’s done extensively to the point that songs from these two sessions start becoming more identical from listen to listen. When The One You Love Loses Faith and Call Ya Momma are pretty inoffensive as far as lead songs go, and Looking For a Place To Land captures some of that infamously moody JTE sentiment, but overall there’s just no spark to be found here. Much of the material is actually quite dull in this basic environment, which is actually more frustrating given that Earle’s consistent edge is visible, but wasted here with TOO much copy and paste. In the end Absent Fathers comes off as dry and lacking the need for much in the way of repeat listens. Good for the collection of a diehard Justin Townes Earle fan perhaps, but uninspiring as a whole.

Grade: 6/10

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