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Tim Easton [rank: 1516]

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"'Sometimes a young man has to wander,' sang Tim Easton on his acclaimed label debut album The Truth About Us, and upon closer inspection, one discovers a songwriter characteristically telling the truth about himself. Easton’s wanderlust is a fact of his life and a major factor in his art, one that is vividly apparent in the stories and characters that populate his new album, Ammunition. Not only was it recorded over two years in locations as diverse as Cleveland, Minneapolis, Alaska and Joshua Tree, California, it draws upon a broad-minded point of view developed over years of globe-trotting. From the streets of Prague where people casually drop the phrase 'Before the revolution…' or the wilds of Alaska where young men can be lured into too much escapism or the gutters of Amsterdam, where a psychedelic hangover feels strangely comfortable, Easton sends postcards home in the form of honest songs, honestly recorded. They’re not all pretty pictures, but sensitive ears will hear someone assembling the courage and fortitude to change things that must be changed. In the battles of life, Easton says, songs themselves can be ammunition.

This is Easton’s fourth album, a compliment to Special 20 (1999), Truth (2001) and its justly celebrated follow-up Break Your Mother’s Heart (2003). Ammunition’s subtle magic lies in its contrasts to those projects, rather than any misguided attempt to further cultivate a 'sound.' As a package, it may strike fans as subdued, but it can also be heard as nimble and fleet of foot, because it was made virtually on the road and in some ways built for the road. 'I wanted to break out of the pattern that I’d made with the other records and be able to record when and where it felt the best,' Easton says, adding that 'it’s easier for me to make a living traveling by myself, so I wanted to make an album that was easy to perform solo for those times when I wasn’t traveling with a band.'

The sound, cultivated in a variety of studios, could be described as spare, but that would undersell the boldness of the lyrics, which Easton delivers with an empathetic and seasoned voice. Eight of the tracks were made by Tim working alone, recording all the parts. Elsewhere, he’s joined by multi-instrumentalist Doug Pettibone, drummer Don Heffington and Lucinda Williams on harmony vocals. Three tracks were co-produced by Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, with whom Easton has toured. Chance and timing allowed for certain visiting musicians to join in: Don Heffington playing floor toms on the album-opening 'Black Dog' and North Carolina heavyweight Tift Merritt who adds her voice to 'Next to You.' The project began to take shape in Ohio, Easton’s home state and the closest thing to a fixed address Easton had during his itinerant years. One morning in Cleveland, he recorded the folk classic 'Sitting On Top Of The World.' 'I was more or less warming up in the studio,' Easton says. 'And the times when you don’t know you’re recording are sometimes the best times. And in that case, that was the first track we got where I went, ‘That’s a track. I want this on my record.’'

Also cut in Ohio was the beguiling 'Before The Revolution,' inspired by a friend from Prague who had seen a world without, and then with, freedom. With Louris and others, Easton recorded the resolute 'Not Today' and 'Next To You' in Minneapolis. Working in Alaska inspired 'I Don’t Want To Come Home,' partly based on the story told in Jon Krakauer’s 'Into the Wild' of a desperate young man who tries to live alone in the Alaska wild and fails. Easton did at last settle down, moving to a new home in Joshua Tree, a place he’d fallen for during years in L.A. He set up in Victoria Williams’ studio with engineer Mark Howard (who has history with Tom Waits and Bob Dylan) and set about finishing Ammunition. Out came some stark politics ('News Blackout' 'J.P.M.F.Y.F.'), some righteous blues-rock balladry ('C-Dub') and some beautiful but cryptic allegory ('Black Dog'). You should probably think of him as a folksinger with a bunch of rock and roll friends, but Easton won’t be drawn into the comparisons game. Musical sub-categorization or modern-day movements don’t clarify his essence. He’s an artist who travels light and makes connections. Don’t let the title deceive you. Ammunition isn’t always used for aggression, and it doesn’t have to be used to make one feel stronger."

[reproduced or excerpted from band website linked above]

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