Tim Easton has a fine history as an American singer-songwriter, and was a rising star of the alt-country movement. His albums to date have veered towards austere, acoustic work. Not Cool however is decidedly electric, a dark and brooding re-invention.
Apparently the concept for Not Cool came to Easton as he was getting acquainted with his new, adopted hometown of Nashville: “The back stage door of the Ryman Auditorium is directly across the alley from the back door to Robert’s Western World on Lower Broadway. I walked in the bar one night and heard the locals killing it. JD Simo on guitar and Joe Fick on upright bass. It was just the modern yet vintage sound that I wanted, and I simply asked them to play on my record.”
“Don’t Lie” sets the tone from the get-go – a swampy, combustible reminder with greasy slide guitar that it’s easy to get caught out when playing dirty. The infectious rhythmic groove extends to the hot sweaty club of the strangely optimistic “Troubled Times”. There’s a girl near the exit in “Lickety Split” who likes being beaten up for pleasure, but Easton doesn’t judge, just observes. “Tired and Hungry” is drivingly sexual with frantic guitar-playing and “Hey Little Doggie” uses classic blues imagery so well that you have to wonder if it’s not a Willie Dixon original. The witty, snappy lyrics are perfectly suited to the pace of the music.
The sound of Not Cool is distinctive, a mesh of Sun Studio and garage twang, drawing inspiration from an assortment of scrappy, lost-and-found instruments, including Easton’s $100 Kay guitar, wired with a cheap-o pick-up and run through a tiny, 5-watt Gretsch amp. The stories told are cast in a wide, cinematic landscape and the characters artfully described. “Four Queens” is a composite of four dark, devilish, ultra-cool women all pulling the protagonist in different ways. It’s a striking and unusual song, as is “They Will Bury You”, something like a condensed noir film, with thundering, broody backing. It’s the start of a perfectly timed slow-down from the energetic romp which precedes it, as Easton heads into more measured tempo for “Gallatin Pike Blues”, “Not Cool” and “Knock Out Roses (For Levon)”, the latter written on the day Levon Helm died. As the record de-accelerates, you’re still left feeling that overall the good times roll, and Not Cool turns out to be very cool indeed.
Read our interview with Tim Easton about Not Cool here
Label: Camp Fire Propaganda/Thirty Tigers
Release Date: 20 AUG 2013
FIRST PUBLISHED BUCKETFULL OF BRAINS (ISSUE 82)