Van Eaton & Friends: Blood on the Ground

I have vowed in 2009 to make Knoxville artists a larger part of the music I cover here at A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz. Luckily, Knoxville keeps giving me great new music and great new artists to write about. I have another new one for you today.

About a month ago, I noticed that Dennis Double (co-host of WDVX’s Writer’s Block program) seemed to be pretty worked up about a new CD he had heard that week from a local songwriter named Van Eaton. He was passing out copies to everyone at the station (except me), and excitedly sharing the songs on Writer’s Block. I’d hear Dennis talking to other people at the station about the copies he had given them and hear them give their enthusiastic reviews back.

A few weeks ago, I finally got a copy for myself and figured out what everyone else was so excited about. Blood on the Ground from Van Eaton & Friends is a solid Americana album that branches out from strong bluegrass roots to deliver a group of songs that bring a little polish to the traditional back porch picking session.

Speaking of pickers… I should probably mention that the “And Friends” who play on the album include Ronnie McCoury, Robbie McCoury, Jason Carter, and Alan Bartram of The Del McCoury Band. Eaton first crossed paths with the band when he wrote the title track to their 2003 album It’s Just the Night, and was able to enlist their services for his debut effort. Even with such bluegrass luminaries on board… it’s Eaton’s songs that take center stage throughout.

On his myspace page, Eaton describes his music as, “Americana with a Gospel soul and a Bluegrass heart,” and it’s true that his songs do draw heavily from both southern music traditions. It’s also important to note, however, that Blood on the Ground is not strictly a bluegrass album or strictly a gospel album. There’s more going on here as well.

In “The Fire Room,” the protagonist of the song finds solace in prayer, but he may be doing so for the wrong reasons. He lived his life with a stone cold heart, let the Devil control his idle hands, and fell to temptation at every turn. Now, at the end of his life (and the end of his rope), he turns to the Father he never counted on before for a last minute pardon. It’s up to the listener to decide if the narrator has truly repented.

The album’s title track tackles the subject of war with a brutal honesty not often found in bluegrass circles. This time, the narrator is a soldier who has lost friends and has blood on his own hands. He is charged with being a hero, but knows all too well the dangers his bravery exposes him to.

If you want to hear more from Van Eaton, then next week is the perfect time. Eaton will be the guest of Karen Reynolds and Dennis Double Wednesday night at 10:00 (Eastern) on The Writer’s Block on WDVX. He’ll also be playing the Blue Plate Special on WDVX next Friday at noon. Blood on the Ground will be released by Eyetune Records on March 7th.

Van Eaton & Friends: The Fire Room (Buy Album)
Van Eaton & Friends: Blood on the Ground (Buy Album)

9 Responses to “Van Eaton & Friends: Blood on the Ground”

  1. Jake Berry Says:

    Thank you for taking the time to listen deeply to BLOOD ON THE GROUND. It rewards that kind of attention. Van Eaton has exceptional musical instincts and has learned songwriting from the finest music of the past, American and otherwise. I do not exaggerate when I place him next to Hank Williams or John Hiatt as a songwritter. He can also deliver a song with such passion and devotion that it is impossible not to be moved by the performance. The McCoury band is the perfect compliment to these songs and they don’t pass up the opportunity to move beyond a strictly bluegrass interpretation. As with all great American music this is a mixture of influences distilled by a master songwriter accompanied by master musicians into an original and authentic new music.

  2. Mark Walton Says:

    This is a very nice review and well deserved. Van Eaton and I met in May of 2008 while both attending Delfest in Cumberland, Maryland. Being a songwriter myself, we had a lot in common and hit it off right away. Van came over to our motor home and we got our guitars out and took turns playing some of our own tunes for each other. I had the opportunity to hear a number of songs that you will find on “Blood on the Ground.” I was immediately taken by his writing ability. Couple Van’s exceptional talent as a singer/songwriter with his magnetic personality and you’ve got a true diamond in the rough. Thanks to Nelson at for a great review on this release. Help stimulate the economy and go out and purchase “Blood on the Ground.” You won’t be disappointed.

  3. A Brutally Honest review for a Brutally Honest Songwriter. I’m glad you got your hands on a copy of “Blood On The Ground” and thank you for your honest review. Van is a true Entertainer. If you’ve never had the chance to see him play live, then you’ve been deprived of one of those items that should be included on your “bucket list.” I will be in Knoxville on March 7th for his cd release party at the Laurel Theater and can’t wait to see him live again. If you like Rock and Roll, Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Gospel, etc… then you will love Van. If one could take a little of John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, Del McCoury, Hank Sr., and Elvis and mix them all together the results would be Van Eaton. Blood On The Ground offers twelve songs that will indulge all of your musical senses. The CD also features “Given my reputation” which uses brutally honest lyrics to describe the relationship between man and an truly forgiving God. Van offers up music with lyrics to which we ALL can relate. Blood On The Ground is a true Americana Album that should be included in everyone’s 2009 budget, however simply listening to the album without seeing Van and Friends live is likened to seeing the Oscar winning movie instead of reading the Best Selling Novel. Be sure to buy the CD, but GO SEE HIM LIVE!!!! YOU WILL NOT BE DISSAPOINTED!!

  4. Thanks for the comments guys.I may just take my revie down and let these comments stand on their own.Don’t forget to listen to Van Friday at noon on

  5. I grew up listening to this man (my father)… and still the best way I know to sum him up would be as “passionate”. He truly puts his soul into everything he does. He lets his true self burn brightly through his music…Yes, its really hard for me to give an objective opinion on his music considering, well its dear old dad, but I imagine without even knowing him, upon listening to this album the first thing you’ll feel like is that you do in fact know him, and you’ll trust what he says to be honest. Nobody seems to be able to name that genre, so I’m calling it Vangrass. Its whatever he loves and wants to play! He’s a pretty electrifying show for one man with an acoustic guitar. I haven’t heard him play live with a group yet, so I’m really looking forward to the Laurel Theatre CD release show!If Bob Seger were to review his cd, he might say he’s got the fire down below.

  6. Kimberley Dumouchel & Bill Cody Says:

    We met Van at DelFest in May of 2008 and so enjoyed his company and warm, engaging personality! We also discovered that he wrote one of our favorite songs, “It’s Just The Night”, recorded by The Del McCoury Band. Del McCoury chose to use Van’s song to title his own album. That speaks volumes for Del’s opinion of Van Eaton’s work. Van’s first CD, “Blood on the Ground”, is an amazing group of self authored songs, performed with his own raw and edgy voice, uniquely blended with harmony from Del McCoury’s band members. It’s truly a win-win album. Every track is worthy of attention. Van’s lyrics speak for themselves and challenge us to ponder the many facets of our lives. Isn’t that what art is all about – causing us to stretch, grow and explore the nooks and crannies of our minds, where we dared not venture before? We can’t wait to be a part of the celebration at the Laurel Theater on March 7, 2009. Hearing Van Eaton sing and play his own music on stage is what we have waited a year to see happen! We so much believe in Van and this CD that we are driving down from Connecticut to attend this fantastic event. This is a “do not miss” concert and an opportunity to support a superb artist, who has only just begun to emerge on his own. We’ll be hearing more from Van, as this is his FIRST CD! Great reviews and we couldn’t agree more with all of the positive comments. Van will make a lasting impression on all at the Laurel Theatre. And, attendees can bring a part of that magic evening home on CD to continue to enjoy! Win-win!

  7. Kirk Eaton Says:

    He’s my brother. He keeps gettin’ better all the time and really works hard on his music. His songwriting improves with every new batch and he always has or is workin’ on a new song. I have more fun jammin’ with him in the livin’ room than just about anything else. I love you bro and wish you all the best!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    HiLike the comments and will certainly give this album a listen.Question – Is Van Eaton any relation to the Van Eaton brothers who recorded for Apple back in the late 1960’s ?????????Jim R

  9. Anonymous Says:

    No Relation at all, But Yes this is a GREAT CDand is Highly Recommended

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