Songwriter overcomes cliche by charting his own course

Among many, there has been a lazy impetus to make Justin Townes Earle out to be more of a troublemaker than was really the case. The duality of the highly talented singer and songwriter paired with the drug fiend of his early days — especially growing up in the shadow of a father with a similar bio — has always been too much to resist.

Instead of following Hank III down the road of excess, Earle has always hewed to a more gentile accoutrement and modus operandi. Rather than raising hell, or following whatever muse is currently singing in his ear, Earle has instead crafted a body of moderate, even-tempered, 21st-century country. Given his output and touring schedule, again, the lazy route would be to make the blue-collar analogy that so many of his ilk crave in spite of their soft hands. But blue-collar he is not. He is educated and sharp, akin to a solid young professor, or an early Wallace Stevens, a poet who won a Pulitzer writing after the business day was done. In spite of his lineage and the mythology we try to yoke to him, Earle has always been his own artist and his own man — a claim too few in his line of work can make. (Safe bet)