Tim Easton Special 20 Burn Barrel Reviled! (Heathen Records)
Columbus, Ohio, is best known as home to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. And youll find that unfortunate when you take note of the battery of musical endowment found on this pair of recordings. Tim Easton, a former Paris street singer and current leader of Ohio band The Haynes Boys, appears on both: Special 20, his second solo album, and Reviled, the debut by Burn Barrel, Columbuss own little Golden Smog. Special 20 follows Eastons 1993 debut on a Czech Republic label, a collection of Midwestern vignettes held together by sticky arrangements and gruff vocals-sort of like John Prine backed by Dylans Hawks. Named for Eastons harmonica, the record weaves up-and-down tempos and sets the mood with violin, slide guitar, and Hammond organ. Special 20 pops (Help Me Find My Space Girl) as well as it rocks (Just Like Home), and the simple mandolin and glockenspiel backing on the lovesick folk ballad All The Pretty Girls Leave Town (They leave in the fall when they jump the gossip wall) leaves the charm intact. Burn Barrel, the vehicle for singer/songwriter J.P. Olsen, also lists Easton and fellow Haynes Boy drummer Jovan Karcic, as well as Phillip Park of Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments (with guest appearances by an Afghan Wig and a member of Scrawl). Easton plays second or third fiddle to Olsen on Reviled, hanging in the background to add guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and backing vocals. The bands purified, live rock/folk sound intensifies Olsens real-life crime stories of murderers and embezzlers, culled from his former gig as a crime reporter for a New York state daily: (Andy Uzzle has seen it all/Hated every minute of it/Crime scene photographer stepping over blood.) Coyly dropping in elements of a World War II pump organ over loosely strummed instrumentation, Olsens nasally vocals and Burn Barrels relaxed backing are remindful of Dave Schramm on Yo La Tengos Ride The Tiger.-Scott Holter Tim Easton will play the Breakroom, May 15.