Once upon a decade and a half ago, Tim Easton was making a big noise out of Columbus with the Haynes Boys, his ass-kicking Americana outfit. When that good thing came to a natural end, Easton launched his lauded solo career with 1998's excellent Special 20, followed by a succession of equally impressive albums and increasingly glowing praise. Since Easton's relocation to Joshua Tree, California, the site of Gram Parson's impromptu Viking funeral, he's become more acoustically reflective, especially on his last outing, 2006's Ammunition. Now, it seems, Easton feels the need to blow some of the rust out of his pipes and return to the craggy roots rock of his Buckeye days. Porcupine bristles with the prickly charm of the album's title animal. Backed by former Haynes Boys bassist Matt Surgeson and ex-New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown, Easton sounds positively rejuvenated. "Burgundy Red" shimmies like a roots-rock spy theme, while "Broke My Heart" lopes like a Nick Lowe pub-rock tribute to Everclear. Even when Easton slips back into the quieter acoustic mode of his recent past — the blues slither of "The Young Girls," the Ry Cooder-esque folk contemplation of "Stone's Throw Away," the Ryan Adams-tinged "7th Wheel" — he's still clearly sparking with newfound intensity. —Baker
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