Tim Easton

The Truth About Us (New West)

Singer/songwriter Tim Easton hasn't landed the big record deal -- he's better off without it -- hasn't had his songs covered by Emmylou Harris or Johnny Cash and doesn't have a list server tracing his every move. But he's taken risks. In the early '90s, Easton bummed around Europe, played for change in the streets, released his first record on a Czech label, wound up in Paris, busked with Beck Hansen, then returned to Columbus, Ohio, where, in short order, his band the Haynes Boys became an alt-country cult favorite. Along the way, he learned Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Beatles and Dylan and put it all into his edgy, poetic songs.

For his second solo album, The Truth About Us, Easton focuses his hoarse, Steve Forbert-esque whisper on tales of souls so lost they only find meaning after all hope is gnawed away. His best song, "I Would Have Married You," begins on a Los Angeles highway, intersects with a woman who tells the singer of her son, drifts through sleepless nights and concludes with the secret that's been haunting him from the start. "First there were some bruises/Then we made excuses," Easton reveals, as if finally recognizing the truth he'd been hoping to avoid all along. "I would never harm you/Someone had to warn you."

To bring these songs to life, Easton relies on the musical imagination of Wilco's Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer and John Stirratt, who, with every record, master and transmute more and more rock & roll archetypes -- the Band, the Stones, Big Star, the Jayhawks -- without ever sounding like anything less than themselves. Their cryptic but beautiful keyboard and guitar textures, unpredictable but steady rhythms, seem to intuit the elusive and dark emotional gestures of Easton's stories, in which shadows want to be real, wanderers and lovers miss the most essential connections, and every life teeters between irresolvable regret and unexpected grace.

 
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