Angela Easterling "Blacktop Road" (De L'Est, 2009)
Angel with wings
There's an innocence in her voice which matches the blond hair and blue eyes perfectly. But there's also an old head on young soldiers in her writing and on some of these tracks she shows that underneath there's a burning ambition to not be good, but to be great. On songs such as 'Better' there are whispers of an early Emily Saliers in delivery and song style which should be compliment enough.
Although this is just the second full length release there's a personal honesty and splash of life that jumps out of you - helped I'm sure by the band of experienced helpers that add to this well crafted sound. Produced by Will Kimbrough, nothing stands out above her voice but adds balance in the perfect amount. And when she does fall foul of the Nashville clique its done on her terms, on her songs.
'Blacktop Road' could be sung by any New Country Gal, but is not a glorification of life on the road or progress but a pissy, snarling indictment of how this progress destroys memory and lives - think of a new country 'Big Yellow Taxi'. 'American ID' is likewise not afraid of distancing itself from insularity within the good ol' US of A and treats difference as a celebration. 'The Picture' deals with a daughter discovering a photograph of a lynching in the effects of her god-fearing father and doesn't pull any punches in condemnation. It's twin, 'Field of Sorrow' treads a delicate path, dealing with a family separation and feels strangely like Robbie Robertsons wonderful 'Twilight'. 'Big Wide World' is a rollicking hoedown, 'Stars over the Prairie' a delicately delivered ballad written by her grandfather which squares the circle perfectly. The dual treatment on 'One Microphone' and it's French buddy 'Un Microphone' is charming and I'm sure has its own story.
These songs are about place, about family, about belonging and in opposition as much about rebellion, not fitting in, leaving and growth. Her choice of Neil Young's 'Helpless' nearly works but ultimately its about the choice of song, not the song that matters in matters of independence. There have been many false dawns over the years about someone with a bit of guile and craft breaking into the mainstream on their own terms - maybe, just maybe, she has a chance.
Date review added: Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Related web link: Angela's Homepage