Fire Note Says: Easton Stagger Phillips return with a sophomore record that is a breath of fresh Alaskan air!
Album Review: What happens when you get three extremely talented singer/songwriters in one room together? You guessed it – great songs, great harmonies and a record that is hard to put down. This result is really not surprising when the group features Fire Note favorites Tim Easton and Leeroy Stagger which each placed a record in our Top 50 last year. This sophomore album, Resolution Road, is the long overdue follow up to 2008’s One For The Ditch and also represents a progression from their debut’s quieter folk sound as the guys now bring along drums, electric bass and guitars, organ, and piano which results in a more vibrant and warm sound.
“Always Came Back To You” kicks off the record with the harmonizing line “I’m gonna believe – cause you never could make predictions; we were something to see – yes we had our afflictions” as Phillips takes hold of the song and Resolution Road comes to life. This bigger sound will immediately grab fans and bring new listeners in closer. It is the opener you want to hear when you have three compatible voices and Easton Stagger Phillips will bring to mind groups like The Jayhawks and CSN. This more flowing and upbeat vibe rides on with Stagger’s “Traveler” as they sing “I wish that we could go back in time when we were young and feeling alright.” This catchy reflection songwriting is easy to connect with as I think many of us always have moments we would like to repeat. Tim Easton completes the trifecta of tracks with “Stay.” It is a song that his fans will recognize with its thoughtful storytelling and emotional pull as the song hits its big sing along chorus “Darling won’t you stay, darling must you always go away.”
What I really like about Resolution Road is that ESP sound fully committed and confident. This could not been that easy to pull off as ESP connect via Nashville, Anchorage and Lethbridge Alberta plus are dealing with their expansive personal and professional careers. The first record was more of a spotlight on each individual but on Resolution Road you hear a greater interplay of the friends. There are still distinctive leads but background vocals and group harmonies stand much taller here and Resolution Road benefits because of it. The expansion of instruments gives this album a bigger stage as it moves you beyond the campfire and into a more personal space called everyday life. When Easton sings the closer, “Baby Come Home,” you can hear Resolution Road’s sincerity when he pleads “I need you” as the piano plays sensitively in the background.
Each track here has its own personality but it works. The trio did an excellent job of making seamless transitions and a cohesive album while still shining individually when the light was on them vocally but it never finds them overshadowing another member. The time, dedication and focus here paid off as Easton Stagger Phillips surpass their debut. Resolution Road is truly a record that won’t be leaving my player anytime soon with its timeless appeal and is easily one of the finest Americana/folk-rock records I will hear this year!
Key Tracks: “Stay”, “Always Came Back To You”, “Traveler”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Jayhawks / Ryan Adams / Jason Isbell
– Reviewed by Christopher Anthony