Tim Easton

Porcupine

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Review

The "1-2-3-4" that kicks off Tim Easton's fifth album (and fourth for New West) indicates the folk-rocker is more in the rock rather than folk mode here. He doesn't consider it a return to his rawer roots but it's hard not to see it that way. There is a strong Midwestern rock and roll vibe throughout, augmented by some unexpected musical twists (strings, backing female vocals), honed through the vibrant performances created with few overdubs. But it's Easton's honey and grits voice and sharp writing that makes this one of his best and most immediately likeable releases. The tenacious singer/songwriter cites Raymond Carver as an influence and it shows in descriptive, near poetic lyrics that range from virtual stream of conscious in the title track to the hushed, somber tale of whisky drinking girls in "A Stone's Throw Away." On "Baltimore" he takes the first person of a serial killer ("they said I killed four, that's right I killed four") set to a jaunty melody that gets as twisted as its protagonist with a rollicking guitar solo. There's a breezy Byrds/Petty strum to "Seventh Wheel" that feels like a mid-'70s hit single that never was. The rocked up tunes that dominate the proceedings display a different side to Easton than he has typically shown. When he whips up the dust on the thunderous "Stormy" and the guitar-duel fueled "Get What I Got," you can't help but wonder why he hasn't gravitated towards this sound more consistently. Many folk-rockers seem uncomfortable swimming in choppier waters, but Easton takes to it naturally and without a hint of stiffness. That said, quieter fare such as "Long Cold Night in Bed" finds Easton in a more introspective mood that allows his illustrative lyrics a chance to shine. Co-producer Brad Jones has worked with Easton from his earliest days as a musician and provides a sympathetic backdrop for both the plugged-in and acoustic based fare that makes this arguably the artist's finest and most potent offering yet. Its dozen songs fly by quickly, practically begging repeated plays to soak up and savor Easton's elaborately fashioned words and gutsy, but never forced, spiked-punch rocking. ~ Hal Horowitz, Rovi