Tim Easton, with local favorite John Dungan opening

Raised in Akron, OH, alt-country singer/songwriter Tim Easton was influenced by a combination of pop icons (the Beatles, Kiss) and bluegrass/folk legends (Doc Watson, John Prine). Kosher Spears, his college band from his days at Ohio State, performed their unique roots rock hybrid across the Midwest, and Easton eventually found himself busking in the streets of Paris, London, and Dublin. Returning to the States, his folk-based songwriting brought an earthy sound to the Haynes Boys (an existing rock band that recruited Easton in the mid-'90s) and they recorded one album, Guardian Angel, for New York-based Slab Records. The band subsequently split, with its members working in Gaunt and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, and Easton pursuing his solo career. In 1998, Easton recorded his first solo album, Special 20, with session musicians in Nashville, and released it on his own Heathen Records. After inking a deal with EMI Publishing in the fall of 1999, he relocated to Los Angeles to explore scoring films and pursue a record deal. His performances at songwriter hubs like Largo and McCabe's brought about a recording contract with New West Records, and his first release for the label was 2001's The Truth About Us. 2003 brought his solid follow-up for the label, Break Your Mother's Heart. It was followed by Ammunition in 2006. A concert set, Live at Water Canyon, appeared in 2008, followed by Porcupine in 2009 and a pair of self-released albums, Beat the Band and Since 1966, Volume 1, both in 2011.

Tim Easton's album Not Cool (2013) is a tightly wound gearbox of tunes that showcase his influences, including Doc Watson, Elmore James, and Keith Richards. A compelling live performer, Easton re-located from Joshua Tree, California, to Nashville, where he recorded Not Cool in five hard-charging days with producers and long time collaborative team Robin Eaton and Brad Jones. Says Easton, "It was the easiest time I've ever had in the studio."

The concept for Not Cool came to Easton as he was getting acquainted with his new, adopted hometown. "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."

Sonically, Not Cool is both a departure from and return to his first solo album, Special 20 (1999). Like Special 20 - a standout favorite among many Easton fans - Not Cool draws 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.

In choosing the band for Not Cool, the Ohio-raised songwriter embraced a collaborative approach and picked "players I knew could learn these songs on the spot and nail them. And, of course, I was prepared to roll with the surprises they brought with them because that's how good work is done."

"Don't Lie" kicks the album off with a romp. Hard-hitting and tough, the song is driven by Simo's greasy slide guitar and the instinctive drumming style of Jon Radford. Never has Easton's studio band matched his sound and performance as well as on Not Cool.

"Don't Lie"- like many of his best songs – developed quickly and naturally. Says Easton, "'Don't Lie' is a blues story-song, straight and simple. We all know couples like this, liars and ne'er do wells. And this is a snapshot of a combustible relationship."

Now married with a young daughter in his life, Easton's songwriting has been rejuvenated by parenthood. "Having a kid's been great for helping me to get back in touch with the whole spirit of doing things just because they're fun or because it feels good."

As a songwriter whom Rolling Stone praised as having a "novelist's sense of humanity," Easton's Not Cool – his seventh album - further expands his already impressive output of melodic and nuanced tunes. Often drawing inspiration from America's more menacing margins, Not Cool's "Four Queens" - inspired by an off-the-strip Vegas hotel Easton has frequented - is a blunt and memorable tune that traces a woman's descent into addiction in fewer words than a tabloid lead: "Skipped all the good stuff, took straight up with the pills/ Now she's underneath the table licking dollar bills."

But just as Easton's writing is evoking the tough and grizzled world of down-and- outers, he and his band put forward an impossibly appealing Tennessee Three- styled arrangement for "Troubled Times," a true charmer that gets a gorgeous lift from the background vocal stylings of Easton's longtime musical partner, Megan Palmer. Palmer also plays violin on the album's haunting "Knock Out Roses (For Levon)." Says Easton, "The day Levon Helm died I walked out into my backyard with my mandolin, stood by a rose bush, and wrote this tune for him. It's men like Levon who make you remember how much we owe the music. I feel the same way about Doc Watson."

Of the eleven songs on Not Cool, one – "Crazy Motherfucker from Shelby, Ohio" – was penned by friend and Brooklyn-based filmmaker, JP Olsen, whose songs Easton has recorded previously on The Truth About Us (2000) and Break Your Mother's Heart (2003).

Now living happily in East Nashville, Easton maintains a rigorous and far-reaching tour schedule and has been participating in the Nashville tradition of co-writing. He has also been contributing to film scores and soundtracks, most recently Marc Smolowitz's powerful, award-winning 2011 documentary, "The Power of Two."

As for Not Cool, Easton sums it up simply, "there is nothing vague or indirect about the songs or lyrics on this album. It is my version of what American music sounds like."

John Dungan

John Dungan is a singer-songwriter from his native Charlotte, NC. Dungan's sound is rootsy with hints of blues, folk, soul & country. Performing in the Charlotte area for several years, John has had the honor to open or share the stage with artists such as Chatham County Line, The Subdudes, Jerry Douglas Band, Scott Miller, Reeve Coobs, Ben Hernandez, The Thompson Brothers, Joe Firstman, & Mike Crowley.

Lately, John has been walking the line between musician and stay-at-home dad, taking care of his two boys under two years old, If you are able to catch him taking a break from daddy duties, and performing live, consider it a treat.

$8.00 - $10.00


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