The follow-up to Tim Easton's well-received sophomore effort The Truth About Us strips his rootsy Americana sound down even further. The John Prine and Bob Dylan comparisons still hold, but now he adds a taste of Paul Simon's earliest work; all noticeable in his unaffected, near laconic, sand-and-honey vocals. On Break Your Mother's Heart, echoes of Dylan's "Tombstone Blues" run through "Lexington Jail," made all the more vivid when Jai Winding's Al Kooper-ish organ enters the mix. But for all its obvious connections, Easton's music remains refreshingly unique; infused with colorful lyrics that describe the struggling lives and lost loves of rural Americans in heart-wrenching detail. Although assisted by high-profile drummer Jim Keltner (along with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and noted session guitarist Greg Leisz on one track each), Easton overdubs himself on a variety of stringed and keyboard instruments, adding to the album's already individual feel. On "The Man That You Need," the disc's longest and most intimate track, he handles all the music, imparting the sober tune with a comfy confidential connection. Between the tinkling mandolin, somber pump organ, and his high-lonesome voice, the track is a tour de force for the introspective artist. Two covers from obscure songwriter J.P. Olsen (in whose backing band Easton used to play) are the album's only non-original tunes. The overall sound is spacious and meticulous but far from slick, with Easton's earthy voice hovering above the proceedings like a storm cloud over a picnic. By retreating from the all-star Wilco lineup of his last album, Easton has created a more personal and affecting work. It's sure to connect with his established audience, as well as win him new fans.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz