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Tim Easton

Paco and Melodic Polaroids – 2018 (Campfire Propaganda)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Tim Easton

Paco is the name of Tim Easton's Gibson J-45, which he bought for $100 and a couple of trade-ins 30 years ago. The name was bestowed on the guitar in Paris by a Deadhead. It's been Easton's best traveling companion and songwriting aid.

For this occasion, Easton recorded the album in Bristol, Va. via a vintage and portable lathe which cuts a mono signal directly to a lacquer acetate disc, much the way The Carter Family or Jimmie Rodgers made their first records over 90 years ago. Hence, the use of "Polaroids" in the album title. Obviously, it's done live with no overdubs - just Easton singing into a single 1940's RCA 74b ribbon microphone and using both flat and fingerpicking techniques on Paco. It's a spontaneous recording that Easton, by his own admission, couldn't duplicate.

Easton does a few of the tunes with a harmonica rack, much like he does in his solo shows. These are all originals save the Jimmie Rodgers cover of "Jimmie's Texas Blues." The country blues style songs, mostly about traveling, take us back in time. Easton, of course, has played all over the states, Europe, and had lived in Alaska for three years. These days, he is based in Nashville, but his nomadic life has given him plenty of material.

The opener, "Old New Straitsviile Blues," has a train theme, passing through the landmarks of two small towns in Easton's home state of Ohio, before settling in a southern town. Immediately, you hear the rapid flat picking - and Paco sounds terrific for a 30-year-old guitar. "Elmore James" also appeared on Easton's 2016 album, "American Fork." Easton uses a slide in other places too; notably "Broken Hearted Man," the story of a wandering man seeking peace. "Never Punch the Clock Again" is an ode of sorts to struggling in the music business. Most have a distinct southern flavor, indicating how much style and history Easton has absorbed over the course of his career. This is folk music, performed authentically, the way it used to be done with a batch of good songs and terrific guitar picking.