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Tim Easton
SPECIAL 20
(New West)
Stars graphics

While alterna-country pretty boys Ryan Adams and Rhett Miller were hogging all the glory a few years back, Columbus-bred singer-songwriter Tim Easton had just put his insurgent-country outfit, the Haynes Boys, to bed and was busy launching his own solo entry into the "No Depression" sweepstakes. Special 20, originally released on Eastonís own Heathen Records imprint back in 1998, is now being reissued on the Austin imprint New West, which also released his last two CDs.

Special 20 is a quicksilver flash of roots and nerve hot-wired with a Bloodshot samplerís worth of gritty attitude and country-stoked guitar licks. Easton possesses a sandpapery cool voice, a dreamerís eye, and multi-tasking musicianship. Although variety-pack rock isnít always a virtue, in his case, the wide-ranging moods never wander aimlessly or obscure the earthy country-soul charm that runs like a river through these would-be classics. Whether itís the honky-tonk stomp of the opener, "Just like Home," the íMats-like electric blast of "Torture Comes to Mind," or the trashy Cracker soul of "Help Me Find My Space Girl," Easton is at ease and in command as a singer and a bandleader. Hammond organ and pedal steel guitar bleed like twin sunsets on ballads like "Rewind," and the mandolin-dusted "Troublesome Kind" sounds as if it had been written a million years ago ó or at least by Townes Van Zandt (whom Easton actually quotes in the tune). Thereís always been a bit of freewheeliní-Bob tongue twisting in Eastonís lyrics too: "You hang the moon for me with your clay-red hair and crooked teeth/I walk when you talk and itís no surprise/With your whiplash tongue and hurricane eyes," begins the title track. So what if the song is named after his harmonica? Like that instrument, Special 20 is at once immediate and timeless.

(Tim Easton plays T.T. the Bearís Place, 10 Brookline Avenue in Central Square, on Wednesday, May 19; call 617-492-BEAR.)

BY JONATHAN PERRY


Issue Date: May 14 - 20, 2004
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