If you want an excellent example of what Americana, that 5 layer-dip of genres, has to offer you need to just put on Angela Easterling’s new release Blacktop Road. Easterling’s delivers neo-trad country, folk and rock in her earnestly melancholic voice betraying her Greenville, S.C. roots, and her expanded tastes and sensibilities that might have been cultivated by her stretch in L.A. She sounds like she’s be right at home in a honky-tonk or a New York supper club.
Blacktop Road was produced by Will Kimbrough (Todd Snider, Rodney Crowell, Kate Campbell, Jimmy Buffett) and the album reflects his good sense to not burdon it with studio wiazardry.
Easterling has the goods and needs little more than a mic (though here she has a crack band – Al Perkins, Fats Kaplin, Ken Coomer, Anne McCue and Dave Jacques, along with Kimbrough – backing her) to get the job done. whether it’s John Mellencamp or Steve Earle style roots rocking on American I.D., a mid-tempo piece about American multiculturalism and self-identity and the title cut (not a cover of the Lost Trailers crappy song by the same name), and decrying the encroaching suburban sprawl and the loss of a rural way of life.
American identity is again addressed in the The Picture about a woman’s relationship with her father and his involvement in the Jim Crow South. For all braying about social messages in contemporary country music they are like crayon scribbling compared to finely crafted song like this.
Better is a beautifully aching hillbilly-chamber piece featuring mandolin, dobro, cello and violin (not fiddle) as a backdrop for longing for the comfort of a loved one. AP Carter’s Blues continues the bitterweet tone and offers a fine tribute to the Carter family patriarch with excellent pedal steel accompaniment by Fats Kaplin.
The cover of Neil Young’s Helpless is done similarly as the original’s slow, woeful simmering manner that fits the song to a T without being done by rote. Stars Over The Prairie is wonderfully spirited is A Western Swing shuffle reworking of a song penned by her great-grandfather in the 40s.
Easterling’s first offering, 2007’s Earning Her Wings, was an excellent first release, and with Blacktop Road she advances her skills and confidence and has provided us a great Summer soundtrack.