Although he’s been a prolific artist throughout his career,
Tim Easton has remained modest in his ambitions but still varied in his
approach. His last studio album, Porcupine, found him breaking with the singer/singer mold he established early on, and
opting instead to venture into Blues, R&B and other traditional templates.
His recent live disc, Live at Water
Canyon inexplicably escaped a domestic release, frustrating fans while
stirring anticipation. It’s somewhat surprisingly then, that he’s responded by
releasing two albums simultaneously, further avoiding any attempt to typecast
him as simply another Americana
auteur. Regardless, he hasn’t discarded that label entirely; Beat the Band rekindles that rugged tag,
providing an emotional reach that veers from the didactic resolve of “Did Your
Mother Teach You That” to the contemplative reflection of “She Takes Her Time.”
Still, the songs don’t quite capture the spark of his best work, and with Easton’s vocals sounding
scratchy and worn, Beat the Band comes off as simply satisfactory at best.
On the other hand, the threadbare approach taken with Since 1966/Volume 1 proves much more
engaging, mainly because it allows a more emotional immediacy. Recorded in
several idyllic west coast settings – a cabin, hotel room and even a water park
— it strips the sound down to Easton’s
vocal and guitar, and in so doing, lends an intimacy that’s elegiac, affecting
and, ultimately, inspired. True to its title, Since 1966 conjures up a freewheeling retro vibe, one which basks
in the spirit of a campfire serenade, its mood enhanced by the pipe being
passed around. “Festival Song” sets the scene, a teary-eyed ode to an ultimate
communal embrace. The gentle strum and reflective tone of “To Katie,” “The
Weight of Changing Everything” and “Highway 62 Love Song” recall Jackson
Browne, Dan Fogelberg and Paul Simon in full repose, although Easton’s fragile, folksy vocals find Steve
Forbert the role model most often.
sounds like he was simply born too late. And Since 1966 suggests he’s trying to make up for lost time.
DOWNLOAD: “Festival Song,” “Did Your Mother Teach You That,” “To Katie” LEE ZIMMERMAN