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Tim Easton

Not Cool – 2013 (Campfire Propaganda/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Tim Easton

Over the course of his nearly 20-year career, Tim Easton has been steered by both influence and geography; witness the twangy blister of his early mid-Ohio/Midwest days and the Gram Parsons expanse of his Joshua Tree period. Likewise, "Not Cool," Easton's seventh studio album, reflects his move back to the middle of the country as well as his fascination with the legacy of his new Nashville surroundings.

Like a classic country album, "Not Cool" clocks in at half an hour - 15 minute per side, for you vinyl nostalgists - and for its brief run, Easton shimmies and shouts with the passion of a country purist and the authority of a rock craftsman. Don't Lie and They Will Bury You find Easton in full shuffle mode and firing on all cylinders like prime J.J. Cale, while buzzy rockers Lickety Split and Tired and Hungry rattle and roll with a shambling roadhouse confidence.

There are plenty of moments on "Not Cool" where Easton rumbles and chugs in an approximation of what Dylan would have sounded like if The Band had accompanied him on his Nashville pilgrimage, particularly the chicken wire country blues stomp of Four Queens and the lonesome whine of Gallatin Pike Blues.

The key to the success of all of this is that Easton never wavers from the songwriting identity that he's established from the start, and all reference points lead back to his unique ability to absorb and then transcend them, as evidenced by the album's quietly atmospheric and powerful title track. If "Not Cool" feels too short, play it twice. It won't feel too long.