Harlem River Blues

With his third album, Justin Townes Earle has accomplished what, for some artists, is the most elusive of feats: He unabashedly wears his influences on his sleeve, yet spins them into something completely his own. You can hear the ghosts of Perkins, Cash, Presley, Rodgers and even the Brill Building hit makers in this collection (the latter in the gently catchy “One More Night In Brooklyn,” with its “On Broadway”/“Up on the Roof” feel), yet there’s never a sense that he’s merely copping their styles. Even on “Christchurch Woman,” the one song that reveals he’s still his father’s son, the evocation is more a suggestion of moving beyond than harking back to. “Move Over Mama” is a rockabilly kick with jazz keyboard flourishes; “Working for the MTA” is Guthrie with a sweeter delivery; along with “Ain’t Waitin’,” an upbeat, harmonica-driven blues, and the equally beguiling “Wanderin’” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” they convey how adept he is at updating traditions, without defiling their roots. Perhaps the most affecting tune here is “Rogers Park,” which contains the heartbreak and longing Earle’s so good at expressing, but in a mode more suggestive of that mood than the rest of the album, with a piano coda that drives home the loneliness perfectly. Though Harlem River Blues is less nakedly revealing than his last release, it’s another charmer, an assured collection from a talent who hasn’t made a misstep yet — and at this rate, isn’t likely to. — LYNNE MARGOLIS