Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Justin Townes Earle's father is Steve Earle, and the sort of folks most likely to be interested in Justin's debut album The Good Life are the same kind of music fans who've been following his dad's work for years. Thankfully for Justin, that's not because he sounds all that much like his old man; Justin's voice is sweeter and clearer, and his clear fondness for old-school country gives The Good Life a pleasing feeling of understatement that's significantly different from Steve's tougher, more rock-oriented work. But if Justin is reaching back to the glory days of the Grand Ole Opry on numbers like "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome," "Hard Livin'," and the title tune, he also reveals a more contemplative side on thoughtful, no-frills singer/songwriter pieces such as the confessional "Who Am I to Say," the period gunman's saga of "Lone Pine Hill," and "Turn out My Lights," a plaintive meditation on loneliness and heartbreak. On the latter songs, Justin's music more closely resembles Steve's, but while the themes and approaches are similar, Justin isn't afraid to sound vulnerable, and the youthful modesty of both the songs and the performances works in their favor; this doesn't suggest the work of someone following Steve Earle's template but of a songwriter who has dealt with a set of similar demons and has a corresponding but distinct perspective on how they've impacted his life. The simple arrangements and hands-off production add to the gentle but decisive impact of The Good Life, and the result is a fine calling card for a young singer/songwriter who may not have worked out every last detail of his sound but clearly knows where he's going, and it happens to be a place worth visiting.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming