Does the world need another supergroup? On the strength on a new album, Resolution Road (Rebeltone Records), by the collaborative project Easton Stagger Phillips, I’m inclined to vote yes.
On the new album, the trio sometimes dials in the kind of jammy, ski-bum vibes that will make fans of The Allman Brothers wiggle and shake. “Begin” is anchored by warm electric keys, while the group channels the folky side of The Rolling Stones on “Always Came Back To You” and finds a groovy, sun-drenched Paul Simon lyricism on “Lucillia.”
The group was cofounded by veteran roots artist Tim Easton and two north-of-the-border singer-songwriters—Alberta, Canada-based musician Leeroy Stagger and Anchorage, Alaska’s Evan Phillips—and there’s an obvious respect and camaraderie between the musicians.
As Easton points out: “Evan Phillips has summited Denali three times. He’s had to snuggle a German mountaineer/tourist’s bare feet inside his own arm pits just so they wouldn’t freeze when a storm had them both stuck in a snow-cave, hanging on for their very lives. So, he’s a pretty easy guy to be stuck inside a van with for hours on end.”
Easton first connected with Stagger and Phillips during his tours of Alaska in the mid-’00s, then all three musicians hooked up in Joshua Tree, Calif., in 2007. “A few months later, Tim and Leeroy came to Alaska to play some shows with my band, The Whipsaws,” Phillips says. “It was only then that we decided to hole up in a cabin in Girdwood and record what would become our first album, One For The Ditch.”
The musicians have remained close compadres ever since. “The three of us have played shows in Alaska, Ireland, Holland, Belgium and Germany and become quite close in our weird little ways,” Stagger adds.
“Three different voices make the music reach a wider audience,” Easton says. “We are all brothers, yet we all bring different experience to the studio. We are all writers and producers. If we lived in the same town we would probably make too much music.”
The new album was recorded in Alberta and Anchorage and highlights each songwriter’s strengths: Easton’s simple, timeless lyricism; Phillips’ winning melodies; and Stagger’s bluesy stomp (check out the Chess-era Howlin’ Wolf feel of “Hwy Is My Home”).
“Working with these guys pushes me to make sure I’m bringing quality songs to the table come recording time,” Stagger continues. “All three of us are studio geeks so we all bring our production ideas to the records we make with each other, I don’t think there is ever really any artistic conflicts. Tim was a big part of my song selections for Resolution Road and arranging them come time to record.”
With echoes of the sepia-toned late ’60s, early ’70s singer-songwriter sounds of Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jackson Browne and as well as the newer folk-rock of Dawes, Resolution Road may surprise you as one of the year’s best roots albums.
Check out the video premiere for Resolution Road’s “So Much In Tune,” which was filmed, edited and produced by Phillips.