Lookin' Back, Lookin' Forward

A look inside Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville. (Courtesy photo)

As time presses on and music becomes increasingly digital, dubbed and produced, there are figures and record labels fighting to keep the music sounds and feels of yesterday alive, through incredible new releases. Earlier in 2019, I wrote an article highlighting Colemine Records as a new soul institution that was that specialized in a more classic sound, while pushing the genre forward. Since then, I’ve felt that another independent and talented label warranted an equal highlight — Easy Eye Sound.

Since its inception in 2017, Easy Eye Sound has released some exceptional albums from artists like Yola, who I dubbed 2019’s best artist, Robert Finley, Shannon Shaw, Leo Bud Welch and Dee White. In 2020, they show no signs of slowing down. More than just a label, Easy Eye Sound is a studio full of stories and surprises with music roots that run deep.

On a creative break from his rock band The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach purchased a vacated call center office building in the iconic country music town of Nashville, Tennessee. Here, away from the town’s famous “Music Row,” Auerbach outfitted tracking and control rooms creating a shell of a studio space to his liking. Auerbach would soon fill this shell with vintage gear and some of Nashville’s most seasoned songwriters and session musicians in creating Easy Eye Sound. Cream-of-the-crop young artists would get the chance to work with some of these decorated and experienced creators on one-of-a-kind gear mixing the new with the best of the old.

Legendary songwriters like John Prine, Pat McLaughlin, David Ferguson, along with famous session musicians, including drummer Gene Chrisman, guitarist Billy Sanford and keyboardist Bobby Wood, would cut tracks with contemporaries like Auerbach himself, Yola, Marcus King, Shannon Shaw, Early James, Sonny Smith and more. Auerbach would also serve as host and produce albums for blues luminaries like Leo Bud Welch, Jimmy “Duck” Homes and Robert Finley. Giving an additional nod to the past, the label also acquired rights and released two lost records from bluesman and rock ’n’ roll legend Link Wray.

In only two years, Easy Eye Sound has proven it’s on a unique and prolific path, blending sounds of yesteryear with current contemporary talent. Their catalog is a must-explore for fans of blues, country, Americana and rock ’n’ roll. Here are some essentials from their catalog and releases to look forward to this year.

ESSENTIALS

Dan Auerbach, “Waiting on a Song” (2017): A love letter to Nashville, this record established Easy Eye Sound as a label and featured legends like Duane Eddy, amongst others. Unlike Auerbach’s earlier solo recordings solo and with The Black Keys, it showcases a bright 1970’s soul-country style.

Robert Finley, “Goin’ Platinum!” (2017): Robert Finley has been making music his whole life, but it wasn’t until recently that he’s had any commercial success, with the help of the Music Maker Relief Foundation and Easy Eye Sound. Some say he’s “the best living soul singer,” and this album lets his vocals shine.

Yola, “Walk Through Fire” (2019): If you don’t know Yola, you soon will. The UK country-soul singer earned four Grammy Award nominations for “Walk Through Fire,” making this an approachable and instant classic kind of country album.

Link Wray, “Vernon’s Diamond” (2019): “Vernon’s Diamond” was recorded between 1958 and 1959, lost and never released until 2019. Wray is known for changing the face of rock, and was listed in Rolling Stone’s “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time” list. The classic songs from Wray released by Easy Eye Sound give a look into the history of music.

UPCOMING RELEASES

Marcus King, “El Dorado” (Jan. 17): There’s no doubt Marcus King is a torchbearer of Southern music and blues. He’s also a Telluride regular and favorite. “El Dorado” was recorded at Easy Eye Sound and features Southern R&B masterpieces cowritten by King and Auerbach.

Early James, “Singing for My Supper” (March 13): The Alabama native blends sounds of blues, folk and old age pop with a haunting voice. The released singles off of this record are magical and expect the album to be the same.

Check out more from Easy Eye Sound at easyeyesound.com.