Tim Easton opened for Shawn Colvin just before 9/11 at the beautiful Southern Theatre. I recognized his drummer, Justin Crooks, from our days in the Upper Arlington marching band percussion section. Easton had moved away by this point after a decade or so in Columbus, but I remember thinking it was cool he was still playing with Columbus musicians when he could. After moving to California, Easton inked a deal with New West Records, a label that was beginning to position itself at the forefront of Americana. Easton’s 2006 release on New West, Ammunition, is a stripped-down showcase of Easton’s songwriting and serves as a great entry point to his music.
New West Records - NW6093
May 16, 2006
I think of Tim Easton as Columbus’ town troubadour. Historically, troubadours tended to be tied to a specific place. The definition has evolved, and today we refer to what would more accurately be called vagabonds as troubadours - artists more akin to Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour than Grant-Lee Phillips’ 'town troubadour' character in The Gilmore Girls. Easton may be a Nashville-based Canadian border-born Akron native, but he shares a significant connection with Columbus, where he spent a considerable part of his musical career. If you were around the Columbus music scene in the nineties, Tim Easton was everywhere. He was in the Haynes Boys and Kosher Spears. He gigged solo and with bands. You could (and still can) find him at ComFest every year. His willingness to collaborate and share his knowledge helped him become a mentor and source of inspiration for many emerging musicians in Columbus.
Easton was living in Joshua Tree when Ammunition was recorded. Although Columbus was one of the six cities where Ammunition was recorded, a casual fan might not see much Columbus connection. But if you look at the acknowledgments in the liner notes, it’s right there. Used Kids. WCBE. J.P. Olsen. Chris Burney (who co-wrote "I Wish You Well"). The Beal Family. Amy Alwood. Stephen Slaybaugh. Joe Peppercorn. Megan Palmer. Dan Dougan. And so on. But it makes sense that the nomadic Easton would record in multiple locales and the album holds together quite well.
Opening track “Black Dog” and “Before The Revolution” were both inspired by an encounter Easton had with a woman on the Charles Bridge in Prague, and Easton weaves his experiences traveling the globe throughout his lyrics. "'Before the revolution' was a phrase I heard the very first day I was in Eastern Europe," Easton told American Songwriter. "I met this woman and she took me out to dinner. During the course of the meal, she'd repeat that phrase over and over... 'Before the revolution, it was like this. Before the revolution, it was like that. ' The phrase just stuck with me."
Easton’s fourth album has a spare, melancholy feel. The focus is the songs. “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 noted in New West’s Ammunition press release. “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 majority of the instrumentation on Ammunition is handled by Easton, but there are some notable collaborations, including some beautiful backing vocals from Tift Merritt on “Next To You” (his most requested song, according to Easton), Lucinda Williams on “Back To The Pain,” and Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) on "Oh People." "Next To You" was included in an episode of the popular Fox TV series Bones (season 2, episode 9), which likely earned Easton some new and younger fans (and contributed to those requests).
“Ammunition strips Easton's signature sound to the bare essentials, with most of the 13 songs featuring little more than his smooth, earthy vocals and delicate acoustic guitar,” Philadelphia’s WXPN wrote. “The lyrics' somber tone serves only to enhance the melancholic beauty of the music.”
On July 14, 2006, I was fortunate to see Easton perform at the now-defunct Little Brothers with The Spikedrivers. The gig served as the Columbus CD release show for Ammunition as well as the CD release for The Spikedrivers' self-titled debut. Easton’s old friend Megan Palmer was in the house, of course, as the fiddle player for The Spikedrivers. A lot of cross-pollination went on and it was something of a homecoming for Easton. Everyone went home with smiles on their faces that night. Even as his music has taken him around the world, Easton’s songs continue to resonate with those who love the thriving, creative Columbus community.
Drums, Guitar, Vocals – T.E.
Guitar, Percussion, Vocals – T.E.
Guitar, Drum, Vocals – T.E.
Drums, Guitar, Vocals – T.E.
Guitar, Vocals – T.E.
Drums, Bass, Guitar, Vocals – T.E.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – New West Records
Copyright © – New West Records
Recorded At – Mad Dog Studios
Recorded At – Flowers Studio
A&R – Peter Jesperson
Art Direction, Design – Kat Delaney
Management – Shilah Morrow
Mastered By – Gavin Lurssen
Mixed By – Mark Howard