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Justin Townes Earle, ‘Absent Fathers’

No doubt we should all feel compassion for Justin Townes Earle, whose dad, the renowned but self-destructive singer Steve Earle, left his family when Justin was 2, sparking a lifetime of anger from son toward father. The problem is that Justin is 33 now, yet his sixth studio album is still one of the most misery-filled sets you’ll ever hear. Almost every song has a mournful tone, and too many sound alike: slow, ponderous ballads steeped in negativity. When Earle declares “wish I could say I didn’t know you” and “you won’t break my heart again / you broke it once and I was too young and it didn’t mend” on “Farther From Me,” it feels like we’re listening in on a family therapy session. He recounts his own romantic disasters in the somber “Least I Got the Blues,” then seems to attack dad again in “Someone Will Pay” before ending on a hopeful note on “Looking for a Place to Land,” suggesting a boost from his recent marriage. Hopefully he’ll continue to find more peace of mind. (Out Tuesday)


Essential “Farther From Me”


Steve Morse can be reached at spmorse@gmail.com.