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Published: 2013/08/17
by Brian Robbins

Tim Easton
Not Cool

Campfire Propaganda

During my first spin of Tim Easton’s new Not Cool album, Little Village came to mind. If you don’t know or remember Little Village, look ‘em up: John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner – the same lineup who laid down Hiatt’s 1987 masterpiece Bring The Family and reunited to release a self-titled album in 1992. One of the greatest supergroups to ever come and go, Little Village were masters of white-guy-in-the-garage-next-door grooves and clever wordplay. They were loosey-goosey and dead-nuts-on at the same time – and deserved more attention than they received (even though they managed a Grammy nomination in ’93 – after disbanding).

So here you go, world: Tim Easton and his friends are doing that same deed on Not Cool – totally his own music and his own sound, but the same sort of everyman funkiness that made Little Village so damn good. This time, pay attention.

“Don’t Lie” kicks the party off, wop-bopping along courtesy of Joe Fick’s doghouse bass (if it’s not, I don’t want to know) and Jon Ranford’s cool-daddy drums. Add Easton’s no-shit, real-deal vocals and JD Simo sounding like he’s playing slide guitar with a greasy skillet and you have a tune that not only opens the door – it kicks it off the hinges and throws it in the puckerbrush.

The album is laced with moments of well-Brylcreemed vintage goodness (“Troubled Times” and “Little Doggie”); raunchy blues-flavored truths (“They Will Bury You”, “Gallatin Pike Blues”, “Four Queens”) and mildly-psychedelicized-but-still-able-to-drive-home goodness (“Tired And Hungry”). “Crazy Motherfucker From Shelby, Ohio” sounds like a punk cousin to “Peter Gunn” while “Lickety Split” is a total beach blanket bingo shimmy shake, powered by pounding surf drums ‘n’ bass and perfect dollops of Farfisa-style organ cheese and background oooh-ooohs. (Spoiler alert: the fake ending seals the deal.)

The title track – in which Easton offers a list of heartbreaks that are “not cool” – could have easily been the album closer: a sweet mix of wistful acoustic guitar and piano, underpinned by softly-malleted kettle drums and infused with steel guitar ache. Before Easton turns the lights out, however, he gives us “Knock Out Roses (For Levon)”: written on the day of Helm’s death, the tune is a lovely little mando-and-fiddle waltz (Easton and Megan Palmer, respectively) that says it all without needing a single word to do it.

Not Cool ? Hardly. Cool supreme, truth be known.

*****

Brian Robbins can be found with greasy skillet in hand over at www.brian-robbins.com.

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