Despite a storied career as one of Nashville’s most well-travelled troubadours, Tim Easton’s never been content to play any role expected of him. Instead, he’s cast his gaze on songs that offer compact vignettes, flush with rich characters and telling narratives about scenes and scenarios he’s witnessed from the road. Each outward glance has been accompanied by some subtle revelation, a philosopher’s stone perhaps, but one with rock and roll relevance.
American Fork finds Easton continuing to offer up a knowing perspective but unlike his earlier efforts, it finds a skewed perspective, one that’s jaded but philosophical all at the same time. Whether repeating frequent metaphors (“Youth is wasted on the young...you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”) as on the smoothly swaying “Elmore James,” or offering up a harmonica shuffle and some unassuming twang with “Killing Time,” Easton’s nonchalant manner suggests a man resigned to circumstance but never reticent to offer up an opinion. Granted, none of these eight songs are especially intrusive, but given the sublime sensibility of “Burning Star” and the obvious infusion of inspiration on the scrappy “Now vs. Now,” one can’t help get the feeling that Easton considers himself some kind of sage at this stage of his career, one with clear resolve and an unfettered desire to state his case without hesitation.
Indeed, there’s a clear sense of grit and determination present in these grooves, making American Fork Easton’s toughest and most tenacious effort yet. Listen to the grizzled narrative that underscores the aforementioned Now Vs. Now” or the weary but resolute wander’s tale “Alaskan Bars, Part 1” for whatever proof is needed. So while the aching album closer “On My Way” finds him bidding farewell, one can only hope he plans another return very, very soon.