Former Day of the Outlaw front man Stewart Eastham debuts as a solo with this semi-autobiographical album documenting his transition from Los Angeles to Nashville, and his rebirth in Music City. Ironically, given the genesis of his new songs, the album was actually produced by former band mate Burke Ericson in Los Angeles with West Coast musicians, including Ted Russell Kamp and steel player John McClung. Eastham began his musical journey as a drummer, working his way to the microphone of the band Minibike and its follow-on, Day of the Outlaw. As a vocalist and songwriter, Eastham’s folk-like storytelling provides continuity between the group’s two releases and this solo outing, but where Day of the Outlaw’s The Retribution Waltz leaned towards Stones-ish rock, his solo outing starts with traditional country at its core.
With change clearly on his mind, Eastham’s considered many sides of transition. The gospel-tinged opener “Let It Go” sets the stage by proselytizing an optimistic, future-facing outlook. One can imagine this song helping Eastham let go of the comfort he’d developed in Los Angeles by looking forward to the then-unknown opportunities of Nashville. That cross-country journey is essayed in the steel-heavy, foot-stomping “Born in California,” exploring the dichotomies – countryside and city, home and adventure – that have threaded throughout Eastham’s life. He describes the layer between his lyrics and characters as having gone transparent for this batch of songs, and you can feel the autobiographical connection both directly and in allegory. The co-dependent relationship of “Broken Hearted Lovers,” for example, may be a tie between people, or between Eastham and Los Angeles.
There’s a sorrowful edge to many of Eastham’s vocals, whether lamenting lost love or grappling with the ghosts that still haunt better times. His longing is sad, but not defeated, even in the face of the title track’s fictionalized horrors. He pulls out of the nosedive for the honky-tonk kiss-off “The Lights of Tennessee” and escape of “Butte County Line,” with the latter bouncing along with the small-town problems of Steve Earle’s Guitar Town set to the open-road rhythm of the Allman Brothers The album ventures away from twangy country with strings on “Someone New” and funky organ and bass on “Crawl Up Your Bottle,” but the solid singer-songwriter vibe reinforces Eastham’s decision to go solo, and the results are more personal and powerful than anything he’s recorded before. [©2013 Hyperbolium]