Angela Easterling is readying for the release of a new album. It’s titled Witness of October 28h. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
According to Easterling’s official website and other online sources, Angela Easterling is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician based in Greer, South Carolina. Her rockin’ resume includes studying musical theater in Boston, several singles, and two previous full-length albums. She performs live with her band The Beguilers and has toured the US as a solo act and with her partner Brandon Turner.
Angela Easterling’s signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres including Americana, country, rock, and roots music. She has been inspired, in one way or another, by such other artists as the Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris, and Johnny Cash.
Witness is a 12-track disc. On this album, Easterling leads the way on vocals and acoustic guitar. She is backed by an assortment of other artists including Brandon Turner (acoustic and electric guitars, lap steel, resonator guitar, bass, upright bass, piano, organ, banjo, and harmony vocals), Don McGraw (bass), Ted Lucktenberg (mandolin and cello), David Rice (fiddle), Jeff Hook and Scott Stinson (drums and percussion) and Fayssoux Starling McLean and Ian Guthrie (harmony vocals).
Easterling spoke of the album recently. She said: “We planned to release it in 2020, but then we found out we had another baby on the way, and then COVID hit, so we put the album on the back burner.” Yet the assorted unexpected events allowed her a bit more time to write and organize new material.
She added: “In the meantime, I wrote a bunch of new songs I really liked, so we recorded them, and then it was [just] a question of which songs are going on the album.” She added: “So many of the songs are me looking out at the world and things that are going on, and it feels like I’m a witness to it.” Hence, the title.
Track by Track
The album opens somewhat quietly with “California.” It’s a pure Easterling song story that is begging for a music video or inclusion in a soundtrack somewhere. It’s both biographical and reflective.
The second selection is “Home.” Not to be confused with the B-side single by Dawn, this is also an original composition. This too is a personal piece.
The next number is “Little Boy Blues.” Here Easterling goes in a slightly different direction. It has a touch of backyard bayous to it and has a familial focus.
“Halfway Down” follows. It doesn’t appear “halfway down” the track list but perhaps that’s because Easterling simply couldn’t wait to share it on a full-length album. She actually released it as a single in 2018. Still, the song remains relevant, so she included it here. It provides her perspective on the subject of gun violence.
“Keep Your Head Down, Johnny” was surely inspired by her upbringing and current environment. It’s a song story backed by upbeat mountain music that undoubtedly is a throwback to her roots.
The sixth songful serving is “Middle-Age Dream.” It’s an honest, fun little cut complete with clever references to Kurt Cobain and her family. Who needs Taylor Swift whining about her bad taste in bad boys? This is wonderfully real and again pure Easterling.
The seventh selection is the titular “Witness.” The theme here harkens back to her childhood and her early performance roots in theater, band, and choir. More specifically, it is intimately anecdotal.
In a recent interview, she said: “You’re always told you need to be a witness for your religion, but unfortunately what I found in many cases was that I was more a witness to judgmental behavior and sometimes even abuse, and it really made an impact on me. The idea behind the song is how as adults, we grow up and try to break free of negative things from our childhoods, whether they have to do with religion or not. But even if you’re able to move on, it’s still there, down deep inside, and you’re still a witness to that every day.”
The eighth audio offering is “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos.” This is the only cover cut. It was written by Guthrie and Marting Hoffman. Look, your rockin’ reviewer is generally not a big fan of other artists covering Guthrie, but Easterling’s feminine touch makes this one work quite well.
Also included here is “Hero.” Easterling’s song stylings remain solid and consistent as do her song selections and musical production choices. It’s a sweet slow dance ditty dedicated to someone special who doesn’t shirk personal responsibility.
“Have You Seen My Friend?” focuses on an unhealthy, codependent relationship. Some might also see it as a musical metaphor for the current state of America. Is there a political element within? Who cares? The music makes it all work.
“Baby Bird” is an observational piece. It’s undoubtedly both a musical metaphor for motherhood and a song born out of surrender and closure. It is quite personal and a bit tragic. Other women will undoubtedly relate to even the most intimate lyrical whispers.
The closing cut is “Grow Old.” Easterling seems to present this as a spiritual mantra. It instantly clicks with anyone who has children.
She confirms this by saying the song is “sort of a prayer of mine that I would like to be a witness to; I would love to see my children grow old. That’s my greatest wish in life.”
Overall, the album consists of both new compositions and tried and true live faves. If you are already a fan, now you know why this disc feels so familiar. The themes are many and varied, running the gamut from relationships and family to personal worldviews, political unrest, and everything in between. You will smile with her; you will cry for her. So, check out Angela Easterling’s Witness and experience the shining yet sometimes stark reality of the “Middle-Age Dream.”