• Record Label: Vagrant
  • Release Date: Jan 13, 2015
Metascore
74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 15
  2. Negative: 0 out of 15
Buy On
  1. Apr 29, 2015
    80
    Life has been a struggle for the son of Steve but the closing track, Looking for a Place to Land, suggests there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. Jan 12, 2015
    80
    Both albums [Single Mothers and Absent fathers], particularly Absent Fathers, are a finely tuned wallow in male heartache.
  3. Jan 12, 2015
    80
    Like Earle's best work, Absent Fathers is low on flash and high on emotional honesty and perceptive songwriting, and paired with Single Mothers this is some of his most intelligent and moving music to date.
  4. Q Magazine
    Jan 7, 2015
    80
    Although recorded at the same time as Mothers, Absent Fathers sounds more cohesive, Earle's vocals stronger, the playing a little more direct. [Feb 2015, p.117]
  5. Jan 7, 2015
    80
    It’s subtle, it won’t grab you by the lapels, much less the jockstrap or G-string, but it does carry that twangy tang of life.
  6. Jan 13, 2015
    79
    While the album’s primary appeal may come from the rich storytelling in Earle’s songs, the musicality on display is nothing to balk at either.
  7. Jan 13, 2015
    75
    With the separate releases of Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, Earle has made two distinct albums that manage to succeed both as standalone and complementary works.
  8. Uncut
    Jan 7, 2015
    70
    A very fine record, for sure, but Earle has a nagging habit of stopping just short of the hands-down classic he's capable of. [Feb 2015, p.78]
  9. 67
    Absent Fathers, Earle’s sixth album, is a distinct and deeply personal statement about the search for a rock, an anchor, anything to keep from floating into the ether when it feels like there’s nothing left to hold on to.
  10. Classic Rock Magazine
    Feb 26, 2015
    60
    The basic country sounds frame a compelling singer. [Apr 2015, p.97]
  11. Feb 18, 2015
    60
    While not his best effort to date, there are still some standout songs on this one.
  12. Jan 14, 2015
    60
    Absent Fathers doesn't offer much in the way of answers--it's more a snapshot of a process.
  13. Jan 7, 2015
    60
    While Steve’s fingerprints continue to leave a few smudges, six albums in, Justin looks like he’s better equipped than ever to step out of the shadow--and he’s apparently done so by exorcising a few ghosts.
  14. Jan 13, 2015
    50
    Almost every song has a mournful tone, and too many sound alike: slow, ponderous ballads steeped in negativity.
  15. Jan 28, 2015
    40
    The problem is that Earle's melancholy has taken primacy over his songwriting, which is uncharacteristically generic here, making this subdued and plodding release a career low.
User Score
7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 7
  2. Negative: 1 out of 7
  1. Feb 18, 2016
    10
    E Swartz for sure wouldn't understand the complex nature of this singer and his lyrics. He is about as real of a lyricist as you will findE Swartz for sure wouldn't understand the complex nature of this singer and his lyrics. He is about as real of a lyricist as you will find who has been to hell and back and has more than enough experience in life to tell warning tales to others. Full Review »
  2. Jan 19, 2015
    10
    You can dive deep, way deep, in your understanding of this album, and others have done so. If you're a miner for meaning, stake your claim inYou can dive deep, way deep, in your understanding of this album, and others have done so. If you're a miner for meaning, stake your claim in this album and get to work. The son of Steve Earle, named after his godfather Townes van Zandt, abandoned by his father as a toddler, drug addict son of a drug addict, kicked out of his father's band, now happily married and apparently turning his life around - well, step up to the white board and start diagramming the levels of depth here.

    I know it's all there, but something about this album is too damned good for me to want to dissect it. From the opening thud to the closing high note, I just want to revel in the sound of this amazing album. The bass, the snare drum, the guitars and that yowling voice of Justin's. That's what he asks of us in the opening track:
    So if you have any heart
    If you've any heart at all,
    Then you just sit right back down
    And listen to me talk.
    On the other hand, I'll acknowledge that those who want to delve deep into the meaning are served a juicy morsel in the following line:
    I've suffered for your foolish heart and your desperate needs
    Now after all this time you're still slipping farther from me
    All this in the opening track of an album named "Absent Fathers" (recorded at the same time as an earlier-released album named "Single Mothers") - yeah, the album certainly warrants the close attention it is receiving elsewhere. This is like a Pick Up Sticks game with needle-sharp sticks of emotional pain.

    But the sound is the thing for me. Classic barroom country music, but it sounds a bit closer and a lot more personal. There's a lot of beautiful steel guitar on this album, and I've already mentioned the snare drum and Earle's flexible voice, but it's not a show-off album of soaring instrumental solos. It's so perfectly in balance that I don't want to think about how serious it all is.

    I read somewhere that great music can create nostalgia for a place you've never been. That's exactly how this album works for me. I'm the son of a caring father, haven't had any major breakdowns or been through rehab, I'm married to the girl I fell in love with when I was 18, and I've lived in the same house for over a quarter century. Justin Townes Earle and I are not exactly living parallel lives, are we? And maybe nostalgia isn't exactly the right term to describe what I feel when I hear about Justin's rougher life of despair and abandonment.

    I can imagine listening to this album over a dive bar's sound system, peeling the labels off of Budweiser long necks and shuffling through a slow waltz in my cowboy boots with someone I just met when I hear "When the One You Love Loses Faith". I don't even own cowboy boots, and I'm certainly not a dancer, but that's what comes to mind for me, not the genuine reality of what Justin Townes Earle was describing. Listening to great county music makes you feel sorry for yourself, even if you don't need or deserve the sympathy.

    If you're more caring than I am, and you want to plumb the depths of Justin Townes Earle's Dante-esque miseries, you'll love this album. If you're like me, you'll love the music and the emotional tourism it brings. Either way, this is a truly great album, and I'm pretty certain it will wind up near the top of 2015.
    Full Review »