Vintage Guitar Magazine

Review in Vintage Guitar Magazine (will be published in Oct.09 issue)

by Steven Stone

If Steve Earle was reborn as a girl, he’d very likely be Angela Easterling. And Blacktop Road is her Guitar Town . She comes surging out of the chute like a spurred bronco, full of sideways kicks, bucking with all the compressed energy of a coiled steel spring.

Blacktop Road is Easterling’s second solo release. She enlisted producer Will Kimbrough, who brought his roots sensibilities, along with guitar and mandolin chops. Anyone with a taste for twang will appreciate Kimbrough’s judicial use of old-fashioned plate reverb.

Several of the strongest songs on Blacktop Road address Easterling’s family history. Their family farm, settled in 1791, was split in two by a road that the state graciously named after them. The title song examines her less-than-positive view of the proceedings. Instead of a plaintive wail, the tune rocks with the compressed bile reminiscent of Earle’s “Copperhead Road”. The only cover, Neil Young’s “Helpless”, demonstrates Easterling’s ability to take even a well-known and often-covered tune and give it her own special treatment. Neil, eat your heart outGǪ

Other tunes, such as “The Picture”, examine the emotional baggage of being a white Southerner with a tarnished family history in the area of race relations. Easterling’s ambivalence toward her family’s past makes for poignant songwriting. But her penetrating lyrics would only be political polemic without her enticing melodies. Her “Field of Sorrow” draws from a gospel tradition, while “One Microphone” uses jug-band swing and swagger to get its point across. Easterling’s thorough grounding in traditional melodies and song structures supply her tunes with strong foundations so they sound familiar without being boring.

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