By Eleni P. Austin

“You can ditch all the anger, and unlock the chains, ask yourself how you can help someone else who’s in pain today, take all those worries, put ‘em in a big book, leave the book on a stranger’s shelf, that’s right, now congratulate yourself/Call a friend, ask them how they’re getting on and mean it, c’mon remove yourself from everything you’re afraid of, c’mon, remove yourself from everything you’re afraid of……. and play guitar.” That’s Tim Easton, offering up some self-care hints on “Everything You’re Afraid Of,” from his fantastic new record, Find Your Way.

Tim Easton has been a solo artist for a quarter of a century now. Growing up in Akron, Ohio, he began playing guitar in his early teens. Seminal influences included The Beatles, John Prine, Kiss and Doc Watson.

Once he finished college, Tim hit the road. He spent several years busking throughout Europe, plying his trade in venerable cities like London, Prague, Dublin and Paris. Once he returned to the states he joined The Haynes Boys, who released their one and only album in 1996. Not long after, he went it alone. His first solo long-player, Special 20, arrived in 1998, via Heathen Records.


After signing with respected indie label, New West, his wanderlust increased and he touched down in New York and Los Angeles before landing in Joshua Tree. He released three well-received albums in quick succession, About Us, Break Your Mother’s Heart and Ammunition. His sound was a potent combo-platter of Folk, Rock and Country.

Joshua Tree seemed like a perfect fit, The arid enclave, much like Paris in the ‘20s, or Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s, became a haven for artists and musicians. The desolate, yet beautiful environment provided respite for Rock & Roll sojourners like Gram Parsons, Donovan and Eric Burdon. By the early ‘90s, celebrated musicians like Victoria Williams and Teddy Quinn had made it home. Further down the road, in Pioneertown, Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace had recently been purchased by NYC transplants Robyn Celia and Linda Krantz.

The well-known saloon took on a new life as Robyn and Linda forged a bond with the community and cultivated a friendly vibe where bikers, young families, European tourists, grizzled desert rats, daytrippers and die-hard music fans could peacefully co-exist. They created a world-class venue that became an oasis in the desert for high profile musicians like Lucinda Williams, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Neko Case, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, as well as local musicians.

Pappy’s became Tim’s home away from home. He performed as an opening act, as a headliner and as part of ad hoc super groups like The Thrift Store All-Stars (which included Victoria and Teddy, Bingo Richey, Tal Hurley, Ray Woods, Jr. and on one occasion, Led Zeppelin front-man Robert Plant), and The Sunday band. He continued to make new music at a prodigious pace.

2008 saw the release of Live At Water Canyon, the following year, he made his final New West album, Porcupine. In 2011, he self-released Since 1966, Vol. 1 and Beat The Band, a collaboration that included The Freelan Barons.

Within a year, Tim had packed up his young family and relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, inspired by the lively, non-stop music scene. He connected with local pickers and players and recorded his rollicking 2013 effort, Not Cool. As part of Easton, Stagger & Phillips (which included Leeroy Stagger and Evan Phillips) he recorded two albums, The Ditch and Resolution Road. By 2016, he was solo once more and he returned with American Fork. Two years elapsed before Paco & The Melodic Polaroids appeared, followed by Exposition in 2019 and You Don’t Really Know Me in 2021. Now he’s returned with his 12th album, Find Your Way.”

The album opens tentatively with the title-track. Strummy acoustic licks dovetail sidewinder rhythm notes and quicksilver electric riffs, sturdy upright bass, wily pedal steel, swoony violin and a rippling drum roll. Tim’s raspy tenor leaps in as though he’s mid-conversation, relating a close call: “I woke up at the corner of Trinity and 41, too high to even know where I was going, the lights had switched once more, someone slammed their horn and I slowly made my way on down the road to pull over and thank my lucky soul.” Plucky mandolin fills dart around guitars and sweet violin accents on the break. In a roundabout way, lyrics advocate coming to terms with the hand we’re dealt and managing expectations: “Nobody ever wants to confess that they are like everybody else, nobody ever wants to admit what they really wanted, nearly killed them, and it may still do it yet.”

One of Tim’s not-so-secret weapons as a songwriter, is his ability balance playful and melancholy moments. That juxtaposition is in full effect with “Jacqueline” and “Little Brother.” The former is powered by piquant mandolin, shadowy guitars, thrumming bass and a kick-drum beat. Frisky lyrics address a lasses-faire lass with commitment issues that are caught between caution and caprice: “Jaqueline, what’s the deal, with your ever-changing mind?” Tart violin notes zig-zag across the break, but nothing is resolved: “I know you have to do your time on the road, not even asking you why, don’t forget to come back home, where the water meets the sky”

The latter is a bare-bones affair. Lowing strings coil around feathery acoustic guitar. Tim paints a vivid portrait of brothers who attempt to self-medicate the pain away, drifting from alcohol to more insidious forms of escape: “To lose the mightiest of thirsts, on the mesa we found thrills, black tar and girls with pills, when you know what you’re looking for, it never takes long to score.” A dusting of mandolin on the break magnifies the melancholy just ahead of the inevitable: “Back North our luck went south, consequences crashing down, they wouldn’t cash your last bad check, you put the rope around your neck…Little brother I never knew what to tell you, we’ve both been on the run, in between hell and the burning sun.”

This record is wall-to-wall wonderful, but three tracks stand out from the pack. “Here For You” is a slice of life that echoes master-songsmiths like Loudon Wainwright III, John Hiatt and Joe Henry. Cascading guitars and meandering mandolin are bookended by a ¾ beat. This down-home waltz is a bit of a cranky mash note celebrating the ephemera and epiphanies that accompany family life: “We have our daughter, she’s mostly water and fire too, she’s just like you, when she gets honest and drops truth upon us, we look at each other and love one another/ I fell asleep with the lights on, and it’s no wonder anyone walking their dogs past, can see that I’m under, the weather keeps changing and I’m always here for you, no matter what you told your friends, I’m always here for you.” Mandolin and acoustic guitar line up on outro ushering the track to conclusion. It’s hooky and heartfelt, a crafty encomium to a fully lived-in existence.

Dishwasher’s Blues” is anchored by a walloping beat, gut-bucket guitars, tensile bass and see-sawing violin. Tim unspools a shaggy dog saga that is equal parts droll and brazen: “I met a waitress in a dive in Encino, under a painting of a Golden Palomino and it didn’t take long for me to run her ‘til the wheels wore off, crossed the border in a Pontiac Fiero, got hitched by a witch and her vaquero, two months later she was yelling from dusk ‘til dawn.” Bramble-thick guitars and flinty violin do-si-do on the break before he delivers the infectious chorus: “Just because you quote Jesus, and a line or two from Five Easy Pieces, doesn’t mean you have the right to tell me how to live my life.”

Finally, the aforementioned “Everything You’re Afraid Of” is awash in spiraling guitars as Tim announces “You’re gonna be alright, you’re gonna be alright tonight.” As the arrangement gathers speed, roiling bass and brushed percussion are folded into the mix. Lyrics encourage a friend to take some emotional inventory: “You don’t have to have shame for the games you played, let’s take all the pain and the rage and the useless hatred away, come on, remove yourself from everything you’re afraid of.” Filigreed acoustic licks rev and retreat on the break, latticing whorled rhythm guitar riffs. The final half of the song employs a bit of call-and-response to break down a seven-step plan heading toward redemption: “Think of everyone you’ve hurt (starting with yourself), everyone you lied to (starting with yourself), every broken promise (starting with yourself) every broken heart (starting with yourself) every family torn apart (starting with yourself) every time you turned away from something you’re afraid of, turn around and face everything you’re afraid of.”

Other interesting tracks include the Bottleneck Blues of “Bangin’ Drum (Inside My Head),” wherein smoky harmonica and blowsy guitars wrap around a litany of woes. Then there’s “Arkansas Wounded Heart,” a ramshackle Blues-Rocker that weds stinging guitars, rumbling bass and woozy violin to a hopscotch beat. Concise lyrics chronicle a love gone wrong: “We hit the highway running, crossed a dozen state lines, you rode shotgun and I was always driving blind with your legs up on the dash and a Stetson pulled up over your eyes/We had ourselves a destination and a shiny, shiny silver ring, we picked out a dress and a Stanley Brothers song to sing, I guess we both forgot the notion that love could be a temporary thing.”

The action slows for the last couple tracks. “What Will It Take” matches keening pedal steel, sturdy acoustic guitar, downcast violin and sparkly mandolin to a thunking beat. Lyrics split the difference between a low-key mea culpa and a romantic rapprochement, but the “sorry-not sorry” approach isn’t winning over hearts and minds: “All these dusty questions still expecting answers-like wondering who first counted the stars by naked eye, I was young and careless, breaking all my chances bound to my impossible desire/What will it take, what will it take, what will it take for me to love you again?”

Finally, “By The End Of The Night” is a South Of The Border charmer that blends courtly Spanish guitar, lilting rhythm riffs, loose-limbed bass and a relaxed shuffle rhythm. The song sways with grace and economy, echoing antecedents like Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” and Ry Cooder’s “Across The Borderline.” Tim’s warm croon quietly makes his case: “I don’t want to be foolish or dangerous, well, maybe just a little. I want to sing with you always and comfort you too/By the end of the night, by the end of the night, there’s nothing left to do, but fall in love with you.” It’s a tender finish to a splendid record.

A solo album in name only, it was produced by Leeroy Stagger. It features the talents of Geoff Hicks on drums, Jeremy Holmes on bass, Ryland Moranz on mandolin, banjo, tenor guitar and harmonies, Tyler Lieb on acoustic guitars and pedal steel, along with Daniel Lapp and violin. Jeanne Tolmie and Leeroy Stagger added harmony vocals and Leeroy was also on hand to provide Gang vocals with Coby Stack and Tyler Lieb.

Tim Easton never disappoints, but Find Your Way feels like a watershed effort. Wry, reflective lyrics partner with crisp and sanguine melodies. It is truly cutting and sublime.