Justin Townes Earle - Dada - 5/5/12

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Justin Townes Earle Dada Saturday, May 5

Justin Townes Earle looked dapper as he took the stage alone Saturday night at Dada. Whippet-thin, with a cleft chin that would make Travolta envious, he started the evening with nods to Woody Guthrie, first with "They Killed John Henry" and then with "Wanderin'," immediately establishing the tone. The audience was mixed with young and old, hipster and country, all representing the broad appeal Earle has established in just a few short years.

After the solo start, he was joined by his excellent band, anchored by Paul Niehaus (Lambchop, Calexico) on electric and steel guitar, an acoustic bassist and a drummer. With the full band queued, Earle kicked off "Memphis in the Rain," from latest album Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. And while that album is fat horns and keys, the songs didn't suffer from the pared down treatment.

The set ran nearly 90 minutes and pulled generously from his entire catalog. In the middle of the set, the band left Earle alone for a second set of solo performances, furthering the noisy crowd's adoration. The band rejoined him for a half dozen songs before ending the show at 11:45 p.m.

Opening the evening was Tristen, a fresh-faced girl with Nashville twang and a kick-ass band. She delivered a great set of songs featured on 2011's debut, Charlatans at the Garden Gate.

Personal bias: Earle obviously has a name to open some doors, but his playing and songwriting demonstrate a devotion to the craft.

Random note: As he left the stage for the final time, the crowd bolted for the door as if to catch the last train to Memphis (or maybe Plano). I rode the train and there were almost no concertgoers on it. It's a shame DART doesn't cater more to a late-night weekend crowd.

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