I can often gauge how much I like a record by how many times an attempted review suffers a false start. In the case of Tim Easton's new album Porcupine, I've discarded no fewer than three attempts, while the disc itself has continued to have heavy rotation around the house.
So let me keep it simple, in the spirit of producing something at all. I've enjoyed Tim Easton's work for years, but Porcupine is the best front-to-back listen in the bunch (which includes four previous releases). Much will be made of the fact that this is his rockin' album, but it's easy to draw a line from his previous albums to this one. He's still a singer-songwriter rooted deeply in acoustic blues but with a knack for catchy melodies. This set is s definite shift away from his earlier polished studio gems (The Truth About Us, Break Your Mother's Heart), relying instead on spontaneous bursts of energy, thanks in large part to his fellow musicians including guitarist extraordinaire Kenny Vaughn.
The title of the record obviously invokes the term "prickly," and the record bristles with a jittery energy that only ebbs for the ballads, which are lovely and graceful, especially the string-laden album closer "Goodbye Amsterdam."
I never really gave Easton's last album Ammunition a fair shake, as it was so much quieter and reflective than his previous album. But as companion pieces, Porcupine and Ammunition work quite well together. On the surface, it's easy to dismiss Easton as just another singer-songwriter. But I'd argue that he's a much rarer talent than he's given credit for, and Porcupine ought to bring him to the attention of a lot more listeners. It's certainly one of my favorites - if not most favorite - of 2009.
(BTW, Porcupine is available in limited vinyl, with hand-painted album covers by Easton. They are pricey, but I have to say, very cool. And yeah, I bought one from the Yard Dog in Austin.)