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Easterling and Gildersleeve

The High Life – 2000 (E and G Music)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Easterling and Gildersleeve

The third do-it-yourself release from Arizona-based duo Easterling & Gildersleeve leans effectively on the heartbroken ballad sound of The Mavericks. The opener, "You Ain't Gonna Tell Me Goodbye" could easily pass for a Mavs demo, combining the sort of romantically charged vocals and twangy guitars that power The Mavericks' biggest hits.

On 12 originals, the duo writes of life on the road and in the roadhouses ("Country Highway" and "Strawberry Blues") as well as stories of family disappointment ("The Sons of Dawes Carter") and honky-tonk dreams ("Girl at the Drive-Thru"). Throughout, their guitars, steel, banjo and mandolin (not to mention drums, bass, violin, and keyboards) provide beautifully intertwined support. It's hard to believe it came from only four hands.

Having grown up with their parent's country music, Easterling and Gildersleeve spent a few rebellious years in pop bands, such as Spinning Jenny. The return to the music of their childhood has inspired a purity of intention that's based on music and fans rather than record companies and radio play. Their back porch studio recording is amazingly full, with the duo multitracking the sound of a full band. Their handcrafted writable CDs are packaged with an artist-illustrated booklet and label. It's not just soup-to-nuts, it's the bowl, spoon, place mat and napkin, as well.