Woody Guthrie had the Grand Coulee Dam, Bob Dylan had a rolling stone, and Justin Townes Earle has a champagne Corolla. On his eighth studio album Kids in the Street Earle looks to update folk music for the modern audience, starting with the cars everyone drove when he was a kid.
"I got a songwriter who complained about not being able to write songs about modern cars," he explains, "because they weren't cool like a '55 Chevy, big block… I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood and every goddamn body and their mother drove a fucking Corolla, or a Camry, or an Altima or something like that."
To make Kids in the Street, Earle stepped out of his comfort zone and worked with producer Mike Mogis (he's produced albums for Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit, Rilo Kiley, and more) to incorporate more modern sounds into his music. "[Mogis] was able to bring this sense of 'Well let's try the mellotron on this,'" Earle said, "where I would probably guess to try to use a fiddle or something like that."
This move toward the modern is a clear theme on this new album, with Earle updating songs like "Same Old Stagolee," a folk song about the murder of Billy Lyons at the hands of "Stag" Lee Shelton in 1895. Earle's version focuses on violence within Nashville, specifically between the hill and the bottoms.
Overall, the album reflects Earle's belief that folk music in general needs to modernize itself, at least lyrically. "Nobody can relate to song about a plow and a horse these days, nobody really plows the field with a horse anymore," he reminds me.
Kids in the Street is out May 26 on New West Records. Listen to "Champagne Corolla" below.
3/14 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge (Solo)
3/25 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge (Solo)
3/29 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge (Solo)
4/6 Atlanta, GA - City Winery (Solo)
4/7 Savannah, GA - Savannah Music Festival (Solo)
4/28 - Indio, CA - Stagecoach Festival
4/29 - Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent Ballroom
5/3 - Dallas, TX - Granada Theater
5/4 - Austin, TX - ACL Live at the Moody Theater
5/5 - Houston, TX - The Heights Theater
5/6 - Lafayette, LA - Arcadiana Center for the Arts
5/8 - Franklin, TN - Franklin Theatre
5/9 - Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle
5/11 - New York, NY - Webster Hall
5/12 - Fall River, MA - Narrows Center for the Arts
5/13 - Cambridge, MA - The Sinclair
5/15 - Baltimore, MD - Baltimore Soundstage
5/16 - Kent, OH - The Kent Stage
5/17 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark
5/18 - Bloomington, IL - The Castle Theatre
5/19 - Louisville, KY - Headliners
5/20 - Chicago, IL - Thalia Hall
5/22 - Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall
5/23 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
5/24 - Iowa City, IA - The Englert Theatre
5/26 - Denver, CO - The Bluebird Theater
5/28 - Salt Lake City, UT - The State Room
5/30 - Seattle, WA - Neptune Theatre
6/2 - San Francisco, CA - Slim's