• Folk artist returns to Homer armed with more music and stories
By Katie Emerick
Tim Easton seems to exist in a different era. He’s the kind of musician associated with the lost days of folk; of poets and troubadours who’d play their way from city to town, all for the meaning of living art.
Calling the small desert community of Joshua Tree, Calif. home, Easton has an appreciation for the simple things in life. But, behind his laid-back disposition, he’s a fiercely dedicated artist constantly seeking new ways to fuel the creative process.
When Easton’s debut solo album, “Special 20,” was released in 1998, it reflected a man firmly rooted in folk music. Coupling his intricate guitar styling with his trusty harmonica, Easton wove together a collection of stories that demonstrated his love for the craft, as well as a man coming into his own. Easton had previously been working in a band called the Haynes Boys, formed out of the Midwest heartland of Ohio. But his first solo project found him focusing more on the songwriting process.
Not unlike Doc Watson or Woody Guthrie — fathers of folk who have long stood as inspirations — much of Easton’s music is about the common man. From personal journeys to momentary reflections, his music comes from the road. And with four more solo albums released since his debut — in addition to several other collaborative band projects — Easton is a man in perpetual motion.
“I have to have one iron in the fire at all times,” he said. “Being always on the road is exhausting and hard to get creative work done. But I’ve committed myself to spending less time at the bar or in front of the TV, and more reading and playing guitar.” In addition to his music, Easton is also a folk-artist. He uses stencils and various paints to cover wood and one-of-a-kind vinyl record covers.
His most successful release, 2009’s “Porcupine,” saw him holler back to his Midwest pre-grunge band days.
“I knew I wanted to make a louder record right off the bat,” Easton said about the project. “I think that’s a phase for every songwriter who’s involved in both folk and rock ’n’ roll. Steve Earle, who’s a great example and influence, is like that. He’s quiet, then goes loud.”
And “Porcupine,” compared to its solo acoustic predecessor “Ammunition,” rocks pretty hard. The band is seamless with a driving sense of abandon, and Easton is skillful in not only telling a good tale, but also in his ability to deliver engaging melodies that are foot-stomping journeys themselves.
“It’s the sound of a rock ‘n’ roll band that’s just about to fly off the tracks … it has that central-Ohio sound where we were interested in making noise and a sound that’s not very controlled,” he said. “There’s definitely still a song there — and a story. I’m a folk singer, so it’s always folk music that I’m coming from.”
Equally important to Easton, and a component of his folk stylings, is his ability to play all of his tunes with or without his band. And it’s his ability to bring an enormously full sound to a solo performance that is impressive.
“I believe a song isn’t really a song unless you can play it by yourself by the campfire,” he explained. “I’ve been playing the guitar for quite a while now, so I can fit a lot instrumentally into a song. I’ve spent time studying Merle Travis and the way he plays bass and lead on his guitar at the same time.”
In addition to Easton’s talent as a musician is the delicate sense of layering is his voice. Distinctively husky with a raw sense of honesty, he conjures timeless comfort in his songs. Equally at home discussing life on the road through poetic wanderings or witty perspectives laced with humor, Easton’s a man made for performing. At perfect ease on a stage, Gibson guitar in hand, he has a way of making sound explode with effortless abandon, creating intimacy even out of the larger shows.
A frequent visitor to Alaska, Easton was most recently in Homer for a show last summer. He opened for Jewel’s performance at the Mariner Theatre, and later that evening collaborated with local Yellow Cabin for a rocking party fueled with energy and tinged with a strong sense of blues-folk. Back in Alaska to play the Folk Festival in Juneau, Easton returns to Homer for a Wednesday night show at the Down East Saloon.
When: April 14, 8 p.m.
Where: DownEast Saloon
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