Tim Easton is an Americana musician who has a knack for putting himself out there. The jacket for his sixth studio album, Not Cool, proudly proclaims that Easton “plays Gibson guitars and uses D’Addario strings.” The cover artwork reveals that he attended the prom as the queen’s escort, and in true uncool form, had a black eye. The inner sleeve features snippets of pages of a high school yearbook, and a little bit of Facebooking reveals that he attended Firestone High School in Akron, Ohio, the same as both members of The Black Keys. The album has the appearance of being a bittersweet look back on childhood in the Midwest. While that is ultimately not the case, there is something charming about the window into the artist’s past offered by the album’s visual accompaniment, albeit a small one.
Not Cool is all about Easton crooning in a gravelly drawl over a combination of blues slide guitar and classic rock ‘n’ roll, with some tracks, like “Tired And Hungry,” throwing in some ripping guitar solo work. The penultimate song on the LP, also its namesake, is an outlier on the album, playing the part of a slow ballad. It is the longest piece on the album, just surpassing four minutes, and is probably the closest thing on the album to the nostalgia trip that the artwork alludes to. My favorite track is “Crazy Motherfucker From Shelby, Ohio,” an energized song that combines the right to bear arms with the right to break laws because of a cousin on the police force.
Because of my own youth, I admit that I spent more time examining the visual depictions of high school than I did listening to the music itself, but I did enjoy what I heard. There are few, if any, really memorable lyrics, but Tim Easton can be appreciated for his skill with D’Addario strings.