Picture Book & Live Review: Justin Townes Earle, John McCauley (from Deer Tick), & Seven Handle Sideshow @ Atlantic Station – December 1st, 2012

Justin Townes Earl

Photos and Review by Chandler Mays

Atlanta kicked off December and the holiday season with the first show of Atlantic Station’s Winter Wonder Jam, a month-long concert series with a multitude of great artists. The evening began with a glorious performance by half the members of Seven Handle Circus, appropriately nicknamed Seven Handle Sideshow. Armed with a banjo, mandolin, and a guitar, the band played highly addicting bluegrass tunes while huddled together around a central microphone. Their songs have the pop sensibility of Mumford and Sons and the joie de vivre of Yonder Mountain String Band. Folky three part harmonies filled the air as the Sideshow plucked their way through many original numbers, my favorite being “I’ve Been Around The World“. The opening guitar riff immediately grabs you, and the hook most definitely ‘brings you back’. The group also delighted the crowd with bluegrass renditions of Daft Punk’s “One More Time” as well as Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, in which they vocalized the opening synth-line in pitch-perfect harmony. Having a blast with the three-piece version, I definitely look forward to seeing the full ensemble of Seven Handle Circus in the future.
Performing next was John McCauley, the lead singer-songwriter of the widely renowned alt-country band Deer Tick. Playing stripped down acoustic versions of his songs allowed the audience to focus more on McCauley’s captivating lyrics and unique vocal stylings. I was delighted when he began his set with “Ashamed“, one of Deer Tick’s more popular tunes. It’s a beautiful, melancholy song about failure, and it tugs at my heart strings every single time. Occasionally being backed up with a keyboard or a saxophone, John McCauley enchanted the crowd for the duration of his solo set, his more prominent numbers being “Art Isn’t Real“, “Diamond Rings 2007“, and a highly entertaining cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers“.
I’ve been a Justin Townes Earle fan for a few years now, and I was excited to finally see him live. Mr. Earle did not disappoint in the least as he and his talented band treated an enthusiastic crowd to an hour and a half set of rollicking country and blues songs. Justin kept the show intimate and conversational as he divulged to us his love for Woody Guthrie, who inspired the song “Wanderin’“. The set took a sentimental turn during his performance of “Mama’s Eyes“, a song written about his parents. The song’s candid lyrics almost made me tear up, especially when Justin sang, “I’ve got my mama’s eyes, her long thin frame and her smile, and I still see wrong from right, cause I’ve got my mama’s eyes.” What makes Justin Townes Earle such an inspiring musician is his ability to conjure up truly relatable sentiments and stories through his lyrics about life, family, relationships, and L-I-V-I-N. With his poignant worldview, Justin represents Americana at its finest, and he also happens to be a brilliant guitar player. The highlight of the night was when the band stepped offstage and Justin fingerpicked his way through “My Starter Won’t Start” with stunning dexterity. Spit flew from his mouth on every consonant as he hoarsely sang about “burnin’ bad gasoline”, delivering pure blues in its raw and gritty essence. Justin Townes Earle is a must-see for any fans of blues, country, folk, rock, or good music in general, and I hope to see everybody at his next Atlanta show.

Be sure to check out the next show in the Winter Wonder Jam Series: Featuring Marc Broussard w/ special guests, David Ryan Harris & Ben Deignan


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