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Tim EastonTim Easton
Album: American Fork
Label: At The Helm
Tracks: 8

"My aim is to prod a fork in the somewhat predictable Americana format!", so says our erstwhile protagonist Tim Easton, a man and a musician who is anything BUT predictable. Here is an American folk chameleon, raised on the record collections of his older brothers and sisters, plus the various album and books his mother bought home from working at the library. Here is a man who has recently reached the milestone of having 100 published songs which he celebrated by releasing a hundred solo performance videos on a hundred consecutive days, mostly from his home in Nashville. And here on "American Fork" his avowed intention is achieved with consummate skill, humour, a slightly skewed maverick vision, and of course no little songwriting talent.

This album is the musical equivalent of an old fashioned Lucky Bag - you don't know what you're going to get when you dip into it, but whatever it is you find, it's surprising, fun and thoroughly entertaining!

Americana is an all-encompassing term, and yes, yours truly is probably as guilty as most in using that term as a safe, fall back position. Easton has grasped that, actually, Americana as a genre is indeed a vast expanse on the musical landscape, but here he majestically takes specific sub-genres and moulds them into snapshots of everything that is good within that particular song and subject. Not only that, there is a deliberately commercial edge to the songs that make this album eminently playable and mood-enhancing.

There's swamp-laden down and dirty blues with "Elmore James", the legendary bluesman who could 'shake a whole room with one groove' - and Easton attempts and succeeds in doing the same himself. It's an homage to a style of music that still lives and breathes, and still has that ability to move, groove and inspire. That's how and why this song is here.

There's rockabilly with "Alaskan Bars, Pt. 1", a chugging rock n roll beat that reverently nicks the chorus melody of "Ring Of Fire", but comes to life on the back of some neat guitar licks, and (dare I say it!) some classic Fall-esque samples. It's a freeway burner of a tune!

There's timeless singer / songwriter fare with "On My Way", with it's finger-pickin' acoustic guitar motif and a vocal that reminds slightly of Mark Stuart. It's a song that wouldn't be out of place on the movie soundtrack to "Inside Llewyn Davis", with echoes of late 60's folk both musically and in terms of atmosphere, but with an updated digital edge and one ear on commercial potential. Apparently a lullaby for Easton's five year old daughter!

There's classic Country with "Killing Time" - beautiful lead vocal, beautiful melodies, beautiful pedal steel. Easton makes it seem so simple, but of course we all know it's not. He has an uncanny knack of writing songs that seem like old friends - and that is some talent to harness.

Along with the finest backing band any Nashville songwriter could want, including drummer Jon Radford (Justin Townes Earle, Steelism), bassist Michael Rinne (Rodney Crowell), pedal steel wizard Russ Pahl (Ray Lamontagne, John Hiatt) and multi instumentalist Robbie Crowell (Deertick, Turbo Fruits), Tim Easton has assembled a kaleidoscopic, rambling americana-pop beast that both he and his Brighton-based record label At The Helm can be immensely proud of.

Ken Brown