Concert preview: Tim Easton’s new project is the most satisfying of his career

By Joel Oliphint
From the August 22, 2013 edition

The night of the Americana Music Awards about a year ago in Nashville, Columbus ex-pat and Akron native Tim Easton was hanging outside the Ryman Auditorium congratulating songwriter Jason Isbell on his award for song of the year. From there Easton walked across the alley to Robert’s Western World, a Lower Broadway spot where in-the-know locals go to see great players amid all the neon-lit honky-tonk joints.

That night, guitarist JD Simo and bass player Joe Fick were onstage, and after watching them and mulling over his conversation with Isbell, Easton realized something.

“I gotta get to work,” he said.

Right then Easton decided to hire Simo and Fick to play on his new album, and later on the same night he began writing material for the album that would become Not Cool, out this week on Easton’s own Campfire Propaganda label.

Easton’s move to East Nashville from Joshua Tree, California inspired him to raise his game, Easton said in a phone interview, admitting he slacked off early on in his career.

Now a father to a 3 year old, he has to make better use of precious free time. Several of the songs on Not Cool, for instance, were written and demoed on Easton’s iPhone while his daughter was splashing in the bathtub. And when Easton, Simo and Fick hit the studio with producer/engineer Brad Jones in late January, they recorded the album in just five days.

Easton said he envisioned the title and artwork early on. The cover features a decidedly uncool photograph of high-school era Easton sporting a suit, tie and shiner on his left eye while arm in arm with the homecoming queen. Titling the record Not Cool gave Easton the freedom to do anything on the album, he said—cool or not.

There’s a rockabilly cover of the JP Olsen song “Crazy Motherfucker from Shelby, Ohio,” an instrumental mandolin/fiddle tune dedicated to Levon Helm and the ominous, country-blues number “Gallatin Pike Blues” (named after the East Nashville artery).

No frills corrupt the vintage vibe of Not Cool; it’s one of the most focused collection of songs in Easton’s career.

“I’ve never felt so satisfied with something,” Easton said.