Review: ‘You Don’t Really Know Me’ the Tenth Album From Tim Easton – A Recovery Album from a Broken Marriage & a Life on the Road
I have a special interest in Tim Easton’s work. In addition to making terrific music, he also grew up in the same city that I did: Akron, Ohio. For a small midwestern city, Akron has an impressive musical heritage, boasting, just to name a few, Chrissie Hynde (of the Pretenders) and the new wave band Devo. Tim makes a very different type of music – Americana – but he’s an important piece of my hometown’s musical heritage, and his tenth album, You Don’t Really Know Me, is a vital addition to it.
For more than 20 years, Easton has been recording music, and he’s been playing even longer, opening for legendary singer-songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson. On You Don’t Really Know, he’s reached a contemplative, reflective point in his life. The songs were written after the pandemic set in last year, and Tim describes as a “recovery album,” in the sense of recovering from a broken marriage and a lifestyle on the road that was taking its toll.
As one might expect of a recovery album, many of the songs on this album turn inward. “Real Revolution,” the second track, lays out the central theme of the album:, “Real revolution takes place in your heart and in your mind.” This inward focus continues with the next song, “Speed Limit,” as he sings, “The worst enemy I ever had is the one inside my head.” In “Peace of Mind,” he projects his recovery outward, wishing the listener “the same peace of mind that I wish for myself.”
While the album has a central focus on recovery, it takes that theme to some interesting and unexpected places. “Festival Song” celebrates the power of music to bring people together; “Voice on the Radio,” a tribute to the late John Prine, does the same. “The River Where Time Was Born,” written for the late Justin Townes Earle, is as heartbreaking as anything that great songwriter ever wrote. “Running Down Your Soul” looks at the psychic and moral costs of the gentrification of Easton’s current residence in Nashville.
Throughout the album, Easton is surrounded by a cast of terrific Nashville players. including Tommy Scifres (Aaron Lee Tasjan), Nikki Barber (the Minks), and Robin Eaton (Jill Sobule). Eaton co-produced with Brad Jones, reuniting Tim with the production team from his 1998 debut album, Special 20. Recorded in a series of live takes, the album captures an organic, natural sound that’s perfectly suited to Easton’s lyrics. Easton’s vocal delivery is clear and bright.
Fans of Easton will enjoy this strong collection to his catalog, while new listeners will find it an accessible point to engage with his work. Take the hint from Townes and Kris: Tim Easton is someone you should be listening to.