Beguiler review in No Depression, by Mando Lines
Angela Easterling's new CD is called Beguiler, which means to charm or attract, generally by deception. The album is quite charming and, if you listen to the lyrics, you'll find deception as well. The most obvious example is Group Self Deception (It's Alright), a tune about the lies folks tell every day. "Lie to the dentist about flossing your teeth, Lie to the scale about what you eat, Lie to your wife about where you've been, Lie to your man 'cause you were with his friend . . ."
A Married Man tackles a more specific type of deception, warning "no matter how you try, you won't win his heart tonight." Partner deception and self-deception in matters of the heart are dealt with in Maria, My Friend, a song told from the standpoint of a girl in love with her brother's girlfriend, Maria. "He never knew a thing but she would take off his ring, put her hand in mine, sneak out some cheap wine and make my head spin." When Maria owns up to her orientation and heads west, our narrator doesn't go, staying behind and marrying a nice guy like she's supposed to, ending up "empty within."
In a sort of follow up to Black Top Road (the title song to Ms. Easterling's last album), the song Manifest Destiny addresses the deception inherent in calling property your own. "They stole this land from the Cherokee and sold it to my family. Taken now from you and me, Manifest Destiny."
I finally had the opportunity to meet Ms. Easterling in Telluride last month, where she was appearing as a Telluride Troubadour finalist. (Photo on the left is Ms. Easterling on Telluride's main stage.) I've been keeping up with her for several years and remain impressed by this talented, beautiful and hard-working woman from South Carolina. Those who know Ms. Easterling will tell you she's the genuine article, just as real and honest as you're going to find behind a microphone these days.
So what's an honest girl doing singing about all these lies? Telling the truth about them, of course, in a voice that is strong and clear, backed by The Beguilers, who are Brandon Turner (guitar) and Jeff Hook (drums). Will Kimbrough, who produced the record, also plays on it along with Byron House (bass) and Fats Kaplin (fiddle, accordion, pedal steel). Mr. Kimbrough has taken this very strong cast of players and found just the right combination of instruments for each song, resulting in the impression that each song is recorded just as it should be, nothing missing and nothing extra.
In truth, all the songs on Beguiler aren't about deception. Ms. Easterling wrote 10 of the 12 songs on the CD, which are more extensions than departures from the themes of her previous work. That said, these songs, like Ms. Easterling, seem more mature and self-confident. Musically, Beguiler runs the gamut from the light and upbeat Happy Song to a slow and sad Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Ms. Easterling rocks us on Two Clouds, goes country on A Married Man and takes us to a cool jazz club on Pocket. All in all, a fine CD from an up-and-coming singer songwriter. Give it a listen.
Album photo by Coke Whitworth, photo of Ms. Easterling at Telluride by Mando Lines.