Tim Easton: Special 20 [reissue]

Jason MacNeil

Tim Easton

Special 20 [reissue]

Label: New West
US Release Date: 1969-12-31
UK Release Date: Available as import

When I first heard about this disc being reissued, I thought that Tim Easton might be giving fans of his work an extra ten bonus tracks. Being a reissued disc, the title might actually have 20 special tunes. Wrong. Nonetheless, Easton is one of those singer-songwriters that keep plying their craft to a selected few, but those few can recognize the material he has as successful even if the commercial sales don't follow. Recorded in 2001, the singer gets to work on this jagged-but-fun, ten-tune record with the messy and compelling demo-sounding "Just Like Home". It's recorded as if he was at his house recording it, possibly in his shower, as the distant vocals aren't quite as high in the mix as one might like. It still carries weight, though, as Easton talks about leaving with his best friend suit. The song's organic tone is realized thanks to the foot stomps and even washboard from Mickey Grimm. It's a fusion of early Dylan and pre-stardom Steve Earle.

Most of the album centers around acoustic guitars, train rolling arrangements, and harmonicas that never grow stale or old. The title track is a perfect example as Easton starts off with the typical singer-songwriter style with help from Al Perkins on dobro. The song recalls Marah circa Kids in Philly as its quite sparse but still keeps churning out its melody. The first tune that seems to sag initially is "Torture Comes to Mind", but Easton is able to turn the song on a dime and makes it a rowdy and enjoyable ride through Texas barroom rock. "I've pissed away most of my youth in some lazy one street rock and roll band", he sings as the guitars carry the tune early and often.

The dusty "Troublesome Kind" is the first nugget, with Easton adding mandolin and backing vocals from Annie Light-Brown on this Celtic-meets-Americana ditty. Add to this a few lines from Townes Van Zandt's "Pueblo Waltz" and you've got the makings of something special. "Take me to bed or lose me forever", Easton harmonizes with Light-Brown as the narrative is spelled out. Just as endearing to listeners is "All the Pretty Girls Leave Town", which is Easton spinning a yarn using his roots in blues, folk, country, and troubadour to get his message across. You'd think this was taken from Transcendental Blues or El Corazon but it's not. Instead, it's just a tune that stands up as well as those two aforementioned albums.

Side two opens with the waltz-cum-ballad of "Everywhere Is Somewhere", reeking of a style Wilco would enhance if supported by Emmylou Harris. Perkins lends pedal steel guitar on this song, which could be compared to Being There's first disc. Perhaps this is a good forerunner, as "Help My Find My Space Girl" opens with a different, Gram Parsons-esque arrangement as it delves into a roots rock format that is, well, rather spacey as the title entails. "Does anybody know what she looks like", Easton sings as the tune never quite lives up to the expectations of diehard fans. It wallows with a chorus that continues to peter out with each and every repeat. Thankfully, he returns to his bread and butter during "Sweet Violet", an ordinary number that Easton brings more of an ethereal, spacey feeling towards thanks to some violin by Teresa Fyffe.

What finishes the album begins with "Hey Rosine", a percussion driven tune that has more in common with Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney than it should. It's the low point of the album, as Easton resembles someone who has listened to one to many Beach Boys tunes circa "Kokomo". "Youth will not be wasted on you", he sings as it thankfully wraps up soon after. He makes up for it with the five-minute closing "Rewind", a song that showcases what Easton is still able to bring to the table with each record -- sincerity and an earnestness that few Americana artists can consistently bring. It's a special nine, which isn't that bad out of 10.

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