Country music has always been generational thing, a kind of a mantle passed down from father to son. Just ask Hank III, Shooter Jennings or Bobby Bare Jr., to name but a few. Unlike those other progenies, however, Justin Townes Earle bears the burden of two contemporary musical legacies — but his music shows that he’s unequivocally his own man.

Though he may be the son of alt-country icon Steve Earle and godson to the late Townes Van Zandt, the younger Earle isn’t in the business of aping his familial relations. While both of his forebears spent the early part of their careers toiling at the periphery of Nashville hit machine, Earle’s been outside the mainstream from the get-go. The Grand Ole Opry isn’t even on his radar — except maybe as a local landmark in his hometown — and his latest album, Midnight at the Movies, is a welcome addition to Bloodshot Records‘ catalog of eclectic Americana.

In a scene where everyone’s playing on a name, Earle doesn’t sound exactly like either of his — in the best possible way. Unlike the other, often dour, singer-songwriters in his extended family, Earle isn’t afraid to swerve from earnest, folky ballads into certifiably retro Roger Miller-style honky tonking over the course of a few just a few tracks. Moreover, his father may be known for his two-packs-a-day howl, but Earle’s voice is a smooth, sweet baritone.

Compare and contrast when he comes through your town this March with Joe Pug and be sure to check out a pair of free MP3s (courtesy of Bloodshot) below:

Justin Townes Earle: North American Tour 2010

2/27/2010 Lincoln Hall — Chicago, IL
2/28/2010 Magic Stick — Detroit, MI
3/01/2010 Horseshoe Tavern — Toronto, Canada
3/02/2010 Mohawk Place — Buffalo, NY
3/04/2010 Great Scott — Allston, MA
3/05/2010 Bowery Ballroom — New York, NY
3/06/2010 Johnny Brenda’s — Philadelphia, PA
3/07/2010 The Birchmere — Alexandria, VA
3/082010 The Southern — Charlottesville, VA
3/09/2010 Carrboro Arts Center — Carrboro, NC
3/27/2010 Gladish Communitty Center — Pullman, WA
5/15/2010 Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival — Thomson, GA
6/06/2010 Mountain Jam Festival — Hunter, NY

MP3: “What I Mean to You” (from Midnight at the Movies)
MP3: “Mama’s Eyes” (from Midnight at the Movies)

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