Tim Easton

The Truth About Us
(New West Records)

How good is Tim Easton? Let's put it this way: Wilco is his backingband. On his second solo offering, the Ohio-reared songwriter offers a delicious buffet of roots-rock that includes elements of country, folk, bluegrass, and gospel.

Easton is best known for his work with the Haynes Boys, a loose conglomeration of roots-rockers whose 1996 platter, Guardian Angel, was a cult favorite among fellow musicians. Easton's solo work is quieter and far more assured. Jay Bennett's adventurous mellotron lends an ambient feel to the folksy melody of "Carry Me," while American Music Club alumnus Bruce Kaphane contributes mournful washes of pedal steel to the hopelessly catchy power-waltz "Half a Day."

Easton recruited Wilco specifically because he wanted a polished rhythm section, and the results are nothing short of stunning on rockers such as "Downtown Lights" and "Out of Your Life," which are kicked into high gear by John Stirratt's resonant bass lines and Ken Coomer's thumping kit work.

As a vocalist Easton is not likely to make anyone forget Johnny Cash. But his gentle, raspy baritone has an emotional range that suits his eclectic compositions. He comes off as genuinely melancholy on the countrified lament "Get Some Lonesome" and closer to mischievous on the more playful tracks, such as "Soup Can Telephone Game Conversation." The hidden gem here is "Don't Walk Alone," a gorgeous gospel march penned by New York City­based songwriter J.P. Olsen. Easton's version simmers with rich layers of Hammond organ. His sly vocal performance is bound to remind listeners of John Prine -- who happens to be one of Easton's musical heroes.

If you're a fan of either Prine or Wilco, a few listens to The Truth About Us will turn you into a Tim Easton fan as well.

 
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