Sadly Blabber’n’Smoke is not familiar with Tim Easton’s previous output so we weren’t sure what to expect from this release. The title apparently is a nod to Easton’s wish to “prod a fork in the somewhat predictable Americana format,” whether he succeeds is essentially down to the listener but over the eight songs here he certainly offers a tasty selection of various dishes. What became clear from our research prior to writing this review is that Easton has a wealth of experience behind him. Aside from an impressive back catalogue on various labels he spent seven years way back in the nineties busking around Europe, taking advantage of the fall of the USSR to visit countries which were no longer blocked by the iron curtain. He recently completed a project to play 100 songs in 100 days, the fruits of which can be found on YouTube and he’s an entertaining (and engaging writer) with his blog well worth reading while he his account of watching the Rolling Stones’ gig in Cuba this year is excellent, his experience of present day Cuba given more space than the concert. All told he seems like a real nice guy.
Happily, American Fork does not dispel this notion. While Easton easily inhabits several skins here, the opening song Right Before Your Eyes a slinky rock’n’soul gumbo with Little Feat roots that eases one into the album, he lays out a manifesto of sorts on the excellent follow up, Killing Time. A cool country styled call to arms with Easton proclaiming, “I say Rock & Roll can still change the world, so don’t let your life be wasted on you. Don’t hang there like a broken door. Find out what you’re living for. There has to be something more than just killing time,” the song paves the way for what is to follow as he asks is there more to life than “Just to get up and go to work and eat your American Pie with your American Fork?” It’s a wonderful song, Easton vocally reminiscent of Nick Lowe while the female harmonies summon up Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre while the guitars are as creamy as a Nashville cat.
Having set out his manifesto Easton gleefully swings into blues territory on Elmore James, a rousing salute to old-fashioned “fun and games songs” and their seductive effect before Gatekeeper’s sinister flick knife slide guitar glissandos hover into view. Burning Star is a burnished night time revelry beautifully played and arranged with Easton’s voice acrobatic and intense. The bouncy power pop of Alaskan Bars Part 1 again recalls Nick Lowe when he was hefting bass with Cooder and Hiatt in the ill-fated Little Village although it’s more akin with that trio’s work on Hiatt’s Bring The Family album. Easton tones it down for the remaining songs. Now Vs. Now a slowly swelling capture of memories, dreams and wishes, the organ washes offering the song a Band like majesty while the closing On My Way is a pared back offering to his daughter, its gentle shuffle replete with keening pedal steel.