Tim Easton with Matthew Shelton
Sunday • Taft Museum of Art (2 p.m.)
Like a good many contemporary singer/songwriters, Tim Easton's songs exist at the intersection of his varied influences and his eclectic experiences. But very few of Easton's peers can claim as many influential experiences as the well-traveled Akron native.
Easton wandered early when his father's Goodyear job necessitated a stint in Japan during Easton's second grade year. Under the tutelage of his older brothers, Easton learned guitar as a teenager, combining his natural love of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones with his brothers' influences (Doc Watson, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams). He earned his first payday by busking outside of a Grateful Dead concert in Pittsburgh.
After classes at Ohio State University, Easton relocated to Europe where he shared expenses with a fellow musical traveler named Beck Hansen, who eventually made something of a (first) name for himself. Upon returning to Ohio, Easton put together a couple of Roots Rock outfits, Kosher Spears and the Haynes Boys, both of which attracted decent followings.
Easton began his inevitable solo career in 1998 with the indie release of his well received debut, Special 20, which led to his signing with New West for his 2001 sophomore album, the consistently excellent The Truth About Us. Easton continued his pastiche of Roots Rock jangle, Country twang and Folk Blues lope with 2005's Break Your Mother's Heart, then departed with the sparse Dust Bowl reflection of his fourth album, 2006's Ammunition.
For his fifth album, the imminent Porcupine (also known as Who Wants It? for a spell), Easton returns to the swaggering Roots Rock of his earliest solo work, perhaps because he's gone back as far as five years into his unfinished song archive for material on the new album.
Of course, it doesn't matter where Tim Easton digs for his material; he strikes gold every time. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin with Ha Ha Tonka
Monday • The Mad Hatter
In 1999, the year everyone was partying like it was a Prince song, vocalist/guitarist Phil Dickey and guitarist Will Knauer were working up new songs in the wake of their high school bands' demises. After trying to pass themselves off as junior Nirvanas in their native Springfield, Mo., Dickey and Knauer were looking to fashion a new sound and decided that it required a new name as well.
In homage to the then-recently-resigned president of Russia (and in at least one version of the story a game attempt to pry a laugh out of the girls at their practice), Dickey suggested Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Nearly a decade later, the Russian ex-president is long gone but the band remains.
After three years of gigging, SSLYBY solidified with the addition of drummer Jonathan James and bassist/vocalist John Robert Cardwell, who Dickey had met in college. The quartet's 2005 self-released debut album, Broom, recorded in Knauer's attic and basement, was an immediate sensation with its scuffed Indie feel of Paul Westerberg demos run through a Clem Snide filter laced with slivers of The Shins' Pop naiveté.
Broom earned SSLYBY positive press (including a glowing Pitchfork review) and a tour slot with Secretly Canadian buzz band Catfish Haven, which ultimately led to the band's meeting with reps from respected indie label Polyvinyl Records. With their 2006 signing, SSLYBY saw the reissue of Broom and even greater acclaim with the album's wider distribution.
Last year, SSLYBY appeared in their namesake's stomping ground when they played a gig at Moscow's Afisha Picnic Festival, where they were greeted perhaps even more warmly than Yeltsin himself. Eight weeks ago, Polyvinyl released SSLYBY's long-awaited sophomore album, Pershing, to ecstatic reviews, proving that someone still loves Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.