Following the release of The Truth About Us and Break Your Mother's Heart by Tim Easton, New West decided to re-release his 1998 debut, Special 20. Originally self-released on the Heathen label, the album represents the first flowering of a folk-roots singer\songwriter. One need only listen to a few songs to realize that Easton isn't the typical singer/songwriter with too many things to say or the typical roots rocker with more attitude than chops. The opener, "Just Like Home," is a surrealistic dream where "movie stars and drag queens are draggin' me to the poor farm." But the song works so well because it's also a fine rocker, which makes it a lot more fun than a Robert Earl Keen party song. The title track, on the other hand, delves into folk-country, relying on an odd percussion loop and Dobro to create a fresh roots sound. While the folk-based guitar songs eventually outnumber the rockers, the charm of Special 20 is its ability to mix up the arrangements and pacing over the ten selections, an approach that keeps the album interesting all the way through to "Rewind," the last track. For Easton fans, this reissue will offer a satisfying backward glance; for the alternative country crowd, Special 20 serves as a good example of how to mix electric and acoustic guitars without ever sounding like a cliché.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.