Columbus expat teams up with an old friend for throwback album

For the first three of the 30-plus years Paco has lived with Tim Easton, he existed without a name — not that he even realized it.

See, Paco is Easton's guitar, a black Gibson J-45 acoustic that the musician procured from the Columbus Folk Music Center in 1987 while attending classes at Ohio State University. And all it cost Easton was $100 and two no-name electric guitars in trade — a deal that has paid off tenfold in the years since.

“It's had several dents and cracks and frets and glue along the way, but it has stayed with me, and I have written most my songs on it, and recorded a great many songs on it,” said Easton, who'll be accompanied by Paco when he visits Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza for a concert on Sunday, April 15.

These days, Paco is afforded a few luxuries befitting his veteran status, including an expensive traveling case and regular pampering via the same Nashville guitar tech that tends to Willie Nelson's famed six-stringed companion, Trigger.

The name Paco also has a Columbus connection, bestowed on the guitar by a visiting local when Easton was living abroad in Paris, France. “The Grateful Dead was passing through town and a bunch of Dead Heads were staying at my flat,” said Easton, who was raised in Akron and currently lives in Nashville. “One of them, Mick Forstag, asked me if my guitar had a name. I said no, so he said, ‘Paco,' and it stuck.”

On Easton's latest full-length, the stripped-bare Paco & the Melodic Polaroids, the musician is accompanied by nothing more than his guitar on 10 vintage-sounding tracks he recorded in mono and cut direct to lacquer at the Earnest Tube Studio in Bristol, Virginia.

“It's one take and there's no manipulation, no fussing,” Easton said. “I wanted to make a recording that was just about me and the guitar, and I found this way was going to be the most immediate way to do it. That's why the album is called Paco & the Melodic Polaroids, because these recordings are essentially a Polaroid picture. You take one snapshot, and it is what it is. So if the buttons on your shirt hit your guitar, there's no way to mask it.”

Lyrically, the songs echo the throwback recording technique, touching on timeless concepts such as religious intolerance (“Jesus Protect Me”), workaday blues (“Never Punch the Clock Again”) and romantic regret (gorgeous album-closer “Baby Come Home”).

“I was fortunate to have 10 songs that fit thematically and also didn't sound like they were from any particular time,” Easton said. “It would have been odd, I think, to reference the internet or cellphones or computers on this record.”