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Wyatt Easterling
Where This River Goes

High Horse Records HHR 3395
Review By Steven Stone
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  Typically producers and songwriters are better at producing and songwriting than they are at performing. Wyatt Easterling, who has made more of a name for himself in these first two roles, proves on Where This River Goes that he is equally adept as a performer.

Wyatt Easterling has been in the music business for over thirty years. He grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and hung out with John D. Loudermilk Jr. His father was an accomplished songwriter responsible for "Tobacco Road."  Easterling reminisces, "My introduction to Nashville was at a pretty high level because of John Loudermilk Jr. We’d come into town and stay at Chet Atkins’ house." Easterling’s first release was Both Sides of The Shore on Warner Brothers in 1981. By 1987 Easterling was on the verge of signing a record deal with CBS when Sony purchased the company. The label head who’d worked with Easterling left. "Eventually I ended up writing for his new publishing company, where I stayed for three years." That’s how Easterling migrated from recording artist to songwriter. In 1990 Easterling joined Atlantic Records as chief of A&R, "I was listening to songs all day long, searching for what made a great song and what didn’t." After leaving Atlantic, Easterling formed the Nashville division of Bugle Publishing with Miles Copeland. Easterling has written songs for Dierks Bently, Joe Diffie, Billy Joe Royal, Neal McCoy, and Sons of The Desert.

For his first album on High Horse Records Easterling chose to include nine original songs and one cover.  The cover, "Rainy Night in Georgia," moves this R&B classic into modern times with a Memphis-style arrangement complete with a cello and background singers. Easterlings’s slightly grainy tenor voice makes his country soul version of this often-recorded ballad totally believable.

Many of Easterling’s original songs share a wistful mood. "Fireflies and Whippoorwhills" and the title cut "Where the River Goes" dwell on personal loss, but with hope for growth. His melodies move in comfortable yet unpredictable ways that are still hummable and almost instantly addictive. As you might expect from his AR background, the arrangements on Where This River Goes are fully fleshed out with strings, background singers and a full spectrum of instruments. Danny Parks handles acoustic and electric guitar parts and Celeste Krenz and Jessie Colter Jennings contribute backing vocals.

If you follow pop culture it’s obvious that most record companies believe that only teens listen to and buy music. Wyatt Easterling creates pop-country music for adults, which is both refreshing and comforting. 

 

 

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