“Been Through This Before” is Thomas Bryan Eaton’s fourth official release, and his first foray fully into the world of classic country and honky tonk music. For someone as a child who said, “I like all music except country music,” this might seem a bit crazy. Considering Thomas’ love of music and sound though, it’s not surprising that he would eventually come around to the vast genre of country music. This first started to happen through bluegrass’ high lonesome sound, and from there the sounds of George Jones’ early honky tonk recordings captivated him and sent him on a wildly different path musically, eventually ending up here.
It may seem cliche that a songwriter and picker would move from New York City to Nashville and put out a classic country record, but in truth the seeds of this album were sown many years ago. Thomas found good work playing his own brand of country blues in the dives of NYC, so started shifting his writing to have more original country tunes on hand for three hour bar band sets. Most of these songs come from that experience. Only one of the six originals on this album was written in Nashville.
There is a lighter and jovial feel to a lot of this album; from boots, drinking and love on “Lately I’ve Been Thinking,” to a girlfriend who doesn’t like to text on “Early In the Evening,” there’s much to smile about. It wouldn’t be classic country music though if the bottom line wasn’t the sorrow of love & life gone wrong. This comes through most openly on “I Thought We Were Different,” a tear filled song about the expectations and glory of a new love that have withered through the years. Thomas’ graceful pedal steel accompaniment on this song is a highlight of the album for me.
For the covers, Thomas chose three classic songs that have served him well over the years at live shows. George Jones’ classic “Too Much Water” gets a rollicking treatment, as does “Loretta” from Townes Van Zandt. Stretching even further back in Thomas’ musical journey, he dusted off the bluegrass classic “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane” and gave it a full band treatment.
Thomas, ever the over-achiever, not only wrote, sang, played all the guitars, pedal steel, dobro and even a bunch of bass, but also produced, mixed and mastered the whole album himself. Culling the album from a number of recording dates at home and in proper studios, some of these recordings go back six years, some were fleshed out in the past few months; some were recorded piece by piece, some were done live with a full band. Through Thomas’ overarching vision, the album holds together quite well and is a testament to his growing powers not only as a songwriter and musician, but as a producer and engineer.
“But music without friends is no fun!” says Thomas, and throughout the album he receives plenty of help with fantastic contributions from Miss Tess, Oliver Craven & Maya de Vitry (from the Stray Birds), John Mailander, Craig Judelman, Ryan Keith and Aaron Shafer-Haiss or Matt Arbeiter on drums.
The result is this album, “Been Through This Before.” “The title has plenty of implications, for the songs and life…,” says Thomas, “but that’s a story for another time.” So sit back, and enjoy this new record from a restless creative mind, intent on finding some truth in music and life.