Record Review - 2 February 26 2003

Being a singer/songwriter is an occupational hazard — one that's frequently misconstrued as a somewhat negative stereotype wrought with sophomoric lyrics, redundant chord structures and cheesy faux-sincerity. But in recent years, this mentality has been successfully challenged by several emerging artists, among them Athens-based musician Tim Easton.

On his second New West release, Easton shows remarkable growth as a writer and performer as he mines both the internal and external world for provocative and thoughtful material. He plays most of the instruments as well, with help from drummer extraordinaire Jim Keltner, bassist Hutch Hutchinson and keyboardist Jai Winding.

Combining a folkie sensibility with contemporary energy and a dash of urban blues, Break Your Mother's Heart tells stories and elicits deep emotional responses. Though Easton's sound is quite unique, his influences are obvious. There's a bit of Nick Drake in the haunting "Hanging Tree," and the slow, driving rhythm underlying "Lexington Jail" is straight out of the Delta blues lexicon. And even when the lyrics tend to be tangential (as on "Hummingbird"), the yearning quality in Easton's voice conveys a sadness that emphasizes the emotion in his songs.

Tim Easton plays the Red Light Cafe Sat., March 1.