To say Tim Easton has spent the better part of the last decade “toiling” in relative obscurity would be stretching it – he records for New West, seems perennially omnipresent at SXSW and the Americana Music Conference, and counts Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams among his friends and fans – but Easton’s is not a name you hear mentioned in the same breath as Adams, Tweedy, Farrar and the like.
The cause? I suppose one could tab the general crapshoot nature of the music industry as partly to blame but the fact is, Easton had yet to make that career-defining record that anyone could point to when recommending Tim Easton to the uninitiated listener. Adams has Heartbreaker and Strangers Almanac to his credit, Tweedy’s got Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and so on. Tim Easton has written a lot of great tunes, and made a couple of very good records, but there’s not one prevailing work that anyone could or would point to as “must-have Tim Easton.”
Easton’s new record, Porcupine, may change that discussion. If it is not “The” Tim Easton record, it’s certainly the closest he’s come yet to a streamlined, cohesive “artistic statement,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Put more simply, Porcupine is Easton’s best record, top-to-bottom. Easton vacillates deftly between a raspy, Dylanesque weeze and a slightly more tender, drawling vocal approach that vaguely reflects the Joshua Tree desert where Easton spends a good deal of time, his razor-sharp ruminations floating over jagged, jangly guitars and carefully revamped blues and folk licks.
If there is a defining theme to the records, it is found in a line from the chugging “Broke My Heart,” as Easton declares, “there’s only two things left in this world / love and the lack thereof.” Easton’s characters spend the majority of Porcupine in search of love, trudging their way through the lack thereof. It’s a broad landscape, but Easton has supplied a nice little soundtrack for the ride.