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Tim Easton could break your mother's heart

By Andy Turner, May 2003

Mid to late 1990s. Small southeastern college town. Hot summer night. Bar. Packed crowd. Haynes Boys are playing. They are the opening act. Not to thank for big audience. Cracker, alt. superstars and main attraction, are.

Overheard as opening act performs: "Whaddya thank?" says young drunk guy No. 59 as he drinks and spills a 32-ounce plastic cup of Natural Light.

"Uh, I don't know. They remind me of John Cougar Mellencamp or something," says hot, drunk and blonde girl No. 32 as she juggles her words, her Marlboro Lights and her bottle of Bud Light. She frowns and heads to the restroom.

Drunk guy No. 59 puts his hands in his pockets and taps his foot. Opening act keeps playing and singing about tow-truck drivers and Franklin County women. Jack and/or Diane, pink houses and the idea that you can fight authority, but authority always win are not mentioned.

Things have changed a lot for Tim Easton, the lead singer of the Columbus, Ohio band, that played that night so long ago.

He left the heartland for Los Angeles in 1999 before moving to Athens, Ga., recently. The Haynes Boys are no more, and Easton is on his third solo record, "Break Your Mother's Heart," released in February by New West Records.

It's his second record for New West; Easton released "The Truth About Us" in 2001 and toured for the next 18 months in support of it.

His publicity folks call his latest effort a "career record," and it just might be. Good and great things to say about "Break Your Mother's Heart" are easy to come up with after a listen or two.

"It has a very mature kind of feel to it," Easton says. "It's very ambitious compared to what I have done before."

Easton co-produced "Break Your Mother's Heart" with John Hanlon, who has worked with the Beach Boys and Neil Young & Crazy Horse. His impressive band included bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt), legendary drummer Jim Keltner (John Lennon, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan) and keyboardist Jai Winding (Jackson Browne).

Hanlon was able to capture the "great spontaneity" the musicians created in the studio, Easton says. "The songs have a really relaxed sound to them," he explains.

The standouts include "Amor Azul," a dreamy tune Easton wrote after viewing a photography exhibit in Oaxaca, Mexico and "Blackhearted Ways," which Easton says he hopes he can sing "at the White House as the changing of the guard takes place." Two songs come courtesy of old buddy J.P. Olson, who provides "John Gilmartin" and the stunning "True Ways."

Easton has joined up with the Haynes Boys from time to time in the past few years, including a show with his former bandmates late last year opening for Mark Eitzel, formerly of American Music Club.

And he wouldn't mind play the Midwestern bar band punk-rock blues with them again.

"It's always fun to play with guys who have a certain sound that you enjoy," Easton says.

Meanwhile, Ryan Adams hangs around with Elton John and Bob Dylan and has his songs played on mainstream radio stations. Could Easton be the next to emerge from the Americana poorhouse?

Who knows?

Says Easton: "For musicians who value good songwriting and play a little roots music, it's a good sign for all of us."