Tim Eriksen is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexto – a twelve-string Mexican acoustic bass – creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound that ranges from the bare bones of solo unaccompanied singing on his album "Soul of the January Hills" (Appleseed 2010) through the stripped-down voice and bajo sexto Christmas album "Star in the East" and the old-time "Banjo, Fiddle and Voice" (timeriksenmusic 2012) to the lush, multi-layered arrangements on "Josh Billings’s Voyage," an upcoming album of northern roots music.
Eriksen’s own compositions, which NetRhythms UK described as “strange and original works,” have been featured in in films like the Billy Bob Thornton vehicle Chrystal and the upcoming documentary "Behold the Earth." Eriksen's other notable work has included extensive contributions to Anthony Minghella’s 2004 Oscar-winning film "Cold Mountain" as well as collaborations ranging from hardcore punk and Bosnian pop to symphony orchestra and the 2010 Grammy-nominated album "Across the Divide" with Afro-Cuban world-jazz pianist Omar Sosa.
The former frontman of the prophetic groups Cordelia's Dad (folk-noise), Northampton Harmony (shape-note quartet) and Zabe i Babe (Bosnian folk and pop), Tim Eriksen is the only musician to have shared the stage with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson, and his media appearances have ranged from Prairie Home Companion to the Academy Awards. Having graduated from early shows at punk mecca CBGB, Tim’s more recent performances have included his Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist in Evan Chambers's symphonic work “The Old Burying Ground” and two week-long stints at the Blue Note Jazz Club with Omar Sosa. In the studio, he has worked with producers including Joe Boyd, T-Bone Burnett and Steve Albini.
While Eriksen’s curiosity and passion have led him on many musical journeys besides American roots – from punk rock and shape-note gospel through South Indian classical music and Bosnian pop to world jazz and contemporary symphonic music – all his explorations are linked by the qualities of intensity, directness, and authority which combine in a music that captures a truth about human experience and expresses it without apology.
TEACHING AND SCHOLARSHIP:
Tim Eriksen's work as an ethnomusicologist and teacher has included extensive research on shape-note
music in New England and the venerable Sacred Harp four-part harmony tradition. He is a founder of
what is currently the world's largest Sacred Harp singing convention, in Northampton, MA. In the words of
"Paste Magazine" editor Josh Jackson, “no one has done more to help revive Sacred Harp singing among a
Eriksen has taught college courses including American Balladry, Global Sounds, Film Music from Hollywood to Bollywood, American Music, and Songwriting at Dartmouth College, Amherst College, Smith College, The University of Minnesota, Hampshire College and Wesleyan University. In addition, he has taught hundreds of hour- to week-long workshops and seminars in shape-note harmony singing, American music history, ballad singing and instrumental accompaniment at festivals, universities, museums and arts
centers, including the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, the Society for Ethnomusicology Convention, Colours of Ostrava Festival (Czech Republic), and Camp Fasola (Anniston, AL). His students have ranged from a group of kindergarteners at an inner city school in Portland, Oregon to Nicole Kidman, Elvis Costello, Sting and a group of fifty Romanian extras in the film Cold Mountain and the senior citizen members of the now legendary Young at Heart Chorus.
Voice, Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, Bajo Sexto, Dulcimer, Flute...
"Star in the East" (timeriksenmusic 2012)
"Soul of the January Hills" (Appleseed 2010)
"Northern Roots Live in Namest" (Indies Scope 2009)
"Every Sound Below" (Appleseed 2004)
"Tim Eriksen" (Appleseed 2001)
"The Old Burying Ground" (Dorian 2010). TE appears as a soloist in the new symphonic work by composer Evan Chambers.
Omar Sosa with Tim Eriksen, "Across the Divide" (Half Note 2009). 2010 Grammy Nominee - Best Contemporary World Music Album
"Oak Ash & Thorn" (Folk Police 2011)
"Awake My Soul / Help Me To Sing" (Awake Productions 2008)
"Sowing the Seeds - The 10th Anniversary" (Appleseed 2007)
"Song Links II" (Fellside 2005), UK.
"Alt-Traditional: A Tribute to Traditional Music and the Public Domain" (Dren 2002)
"Behold the Earth" (Compass Light, forthcoming). Feature documentary about Americans' divorce from nature.
"Chrystal" (First Look 2005)
"Cold Mountain" (Miramax 2004)
"Cold Mountain" Soundtrack (Sony 2003). Produced by T-Bone Burnett.
PRODUCTION/LINER NOTE CREDITS:
"Help Me To Sing" (Awake Productions 2008)
"Sacred Harp Singing in Western Massachusetts, 2000-2001" (WMSHC 2002)
Elsa Namaaraa, "Hundinu Harka Kee Keesa Jira" (World in Two Cities 2001)
"Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still" (Appleseed 2000). Field recordings by Anne and Frank Warner.
"Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Convention" (Hazmat 1999)
SELECTED BAND RECORDINGS:
"Double Live" (Cordelia's Dad 2011)
"What It Is" (Kimchee 2002). Recorded by Steve Albini.
"Spine" (Appleseed 1998). Recorded by Steve Albini.
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (Appleseed 1998). One track on CD tribute to Pete Seeger.
"Road Kill" (Scenescof 1996)
"Comet" (Omnium/NORMAL 1995)
"Joy Fun Garden" (NORMAL 1993)
"How Can I Sleep?" (OKra/Omnium/NORMAL 1992)
"Cordelia's Dad" (OKra/Omnium/NORMAL 1990)
"The Hookes' Regular Sing" (Hazmat 1996)
"Glory Shone Around: A Christmas Collection." With Tony Trischka (Rounder 1995)
Zabe i Babe
"Balkans Without Borders" (Zoetek 1999). One track on compilation.
"Drumovi" (Bison 1997)
"Widely regarded as the best traditional American ballad singer of his generation"
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Tim Eriksen came to the attention of folk on these shores when Cordelia's Dad burst onto the scene a...Tim Eriksen came to the attention of folk on these shores when Cordelia's Dad burst onto the scene a few years ago. Widely regarded as the best traditional American ballad singer of his generation, Tim has taken a break from his front man duties with the band to create this stark, powerful debut solo album. His immediately distinctive voice and choice of material make him stand out from the crowd, but his undeniably Carthy-influenced guitar accompaniment is also a delight.
He's got a supreme confidence on stage that transmits itself directly to CD and in no way gets diluted by the studio process. This is most notable in his singing, but comes across in the instrumental tracks here such as 'Mobile Serenade Polka/Shep Jones Hornpipe'. He tackles a full-throated version of 'Farewell to Old Bedford', which often opens Cordelia's Dad live sets, with as much strength as the spiritual narrative 'Hick's Farewell', learnt from the singing of Doc Watson, but by strength I don't mean to imply volume. There's a lot of wonderful volume in some of the songs here but each track sits on the bedrock of Tim's strength as a performer. He does more than justice to all the songs he's chosen and the years of tradition they are rooted in. Even the self-penned and more contemporary tracks sound as full of history and relevance as the ones he's researched from the 19th century.
In the liner notes Tim tries and ultimately fails somewhat to stop himself enthusing too much about each track and where it came from, wanting the listener to listen and find his/her own associations. It's as if the passion he has for the music simply won't allow him to not share the stories behind it and Martin Carthy's quote on the sleeve, 'The watchword is passion... a marvelous musician and singer!' makes perfect sense.
Finally, there is one song in particular that stands out as a result of the times it's released in, as much as the skill of its performance. "I Wish The Wars Were All Over" makes you stop whatever you're doing and listen. Tim writes that the words came from scraps of other songs, of characters and events that seem more real than contemporary writings on war hardly ever are. "Newspapers say horror is 'out there' happening to 'them'. I think this song says 'It's here'", he says and it's a chillingly relevant piece of work as well as a beautiful performance to listen to.
"At once sweepingly epic and as intimate as a lover's whisper"
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By Scott Alarik Eriksen is among the most influential figures in the neo-primitivist movement tha...By Scott Alarik
Eriksen is among the most influential figures in the neo-primitivist movement that is rejuvenating American traditional music. Best known for his haunting music for the film "Cold Mountain," he helped ignite the string band revival with his darkly quirky Western Mass. group Cordelia's Dad, and focused fresh attention on 19th-century shape note singing with Northampton Harmony. A former punk-rocker, his musicianship is confidently state-of-the-art, but his intent is never to modernize or gussy up the old music. Instead, he uses savvy arrangement and recording techniques to focus modern ears on what is most raw, earthy, and above all, human in ancient ballads and fiddle tunes. On his latest CD, "Every Sound Below," recorded solo around a single microphone, the sound is wild, beautiful, and full of unexpected moments; at once sweepingly epic and as intimate as a lover's whisper.
The Answer, My Friend, Is . . . Mono?
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By William Hogeland Signs of an aboveground resurgence for Protestant hymnody include "Every Soun...By William Hogeland
Signs of an aboveground resurgence for Protestant hymnody include "Every Sound Below" (Appleseed), a recent CD by the musician and musicologist Tim Eriksen, featuring his compelling, nasally Appalachian singing, often of 19th-century Protestant hymns. On "John Colby's Hymn" (1810), Mr. Eriksen breaks - perfectly appropriately - into droning central-Asian overtone singing.
A Joyful Noise
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By Nancy Henderson Wurst Enraptured by some unseen force, Tim Eriksen lifts his palms skyward, as...By Nancy Henderson Wurst
Enraptured by some unseen force, Tim Eriksen lifts his palms skyward, assumes a stance in the small recording studio and carefully sounds out a stanza of fa, so, la and mi "shape-notes" before launching into the tormented lyrics of "Idumea":
And am I born to die
To lay this body down!
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown?
Throughout the session, the strong-voiced tenor gazes heavenward. Softly at first, then loud and soulful, each verse of the 18th century a cappella hymn rises to a crescendo before tapering off to a tender ending.
There's no need to look at the heavy Sacred Harp songbook, for Eriksen knows this tune by heart; it's the same soul-searching fugue he and other Sacred Harp aficionados recorded last summer for "Cold Mountain" director Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") and musical director T Bone Burnett ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?") in a small church in Henagar, Ala. The group rendition has been earmarked for a bloody battle scene in "Cold Mountain," but at there is no guarantee that Eriksen's solo will survive the editing process.
Eriksen is far from troubled by this uncertainty. For him, it's the musical journey, the sheer joy of Sacred Harp singing, that counts.
Already stirring visions of Oscars before its Christmas Day release, the Miramax Films version of Charles Frazier's award-winning 1997 Civil War novel stars Nicole Kidman as Ada, Jude Law as Inman, Renee Zellweger as Ruby, Jack White as Georgie, and a sort of musical phonics called shape-note singing. Song leaders in Colonial New England devised the method, commonly called Sacred Harp after the popular 1844 book of the same name, to prod their off-key congregations into learning the hymns.
Often held in stark churches with no upholstery, curtains or carpet to mask the natural acoustics, Sacred Harp singings are making a comeback in cities across the U.S. Altos, sopranos, basses and tenors sit facing one another in a "hollow square" and take turns leading mournful ballads, joyful psalms and patriotic marches as the room swells with a reverent, transcendent hum. The harmonizing is so intense that Eriksen, a Minneapolis-based musician who taught Law and Kidman how to sing using shape-notes, likens the Sacred Harp experience to "being inside a violin."
A lean fellow with a shaved head, a golden loop in his left earlobe and fingers stacked with silver rings, Eriksen looks more like a punk rocker than a 37-year-old connoisseur of traditional American music. Actually, he's both. He's even been known to combine the genres, once recording a punk version of "Idumea" with his eclectic world-music band, Cordelia's Dad, and scheduling tours in the U.S., Canada and Europe to allow time for Sacred Harp singings.
"One time we did 30 gigs in 30 days in England and then came back in time for a singing in western Massachusetts," recalls Eriksen, who grew up in that part of the U.S. "I was as blown out as I've ever been." Eriksen's youthful ardor for Sacred Harp and other 18th and 19th century tunes prompted Burnett to hire him as a consultant for the "Cold Mountain" film and soundtrack.
"It was important to Anthony [Minghella] not to make a middle-aged record, not to make a stuffy folk record," Burnett says just moments before leaving the Nashville studio for a screening in New York. "So we started looking for exciting voices from people we hadn't heard that could possibly breathe some new life into these old songs."
Eriksen was originally brought in to provide the singing voice of the "Cold Mountain" character Stobrod, played by burly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson.
When asked to gather some singers for a studio session, he coaxed Burnett and Minghella into documenting the real deal at Alabama's Liberty Baptist Church. "I've learned that in order to record a Sacred Harp singing," Eriksen says, "you have to have a Sacred Harp singing. That includes everything - dinner on the grounds, letting go of control over the songs, letting the craft sort itself out."
Eriksen's contributions to "Cold Mountain" didn't stop there. He also played a bit part as the choirmaster; recorded a number of period songs, some solo, some with other Sacred Harp singers, some with folk artists Riley Baugus and Tim O'Brien; and accompanied the cast to rain-soaked Romania, where, through an interpreter, he taught 50 Romanian extras how to sing that type of music.
Even his son Luka, who turns 2 the day the movie debuts, appeared in a scene with Zellweger. And Eriksen served as a Sacred Harp mentor to Kidman and Law, neither of whom was familiar with this type of singing.
"Nicole is a quick study and an amazingly hard worker, like so many folks in this picture," Eriksen says. "She's a good treble singer. She said she liked it a lot and she might take her kids [to a singing]."
Thanks in part to Eriksen's contagious zeal for the music, what began as an incidental Sacred Harp cameo evolved into two pivotal movie backdrops: "Idumea," the powerful score for the battle at Petersburg, Va., and "I'm Going Home," used in a church scene where Kidman and Law exchange glances as male parishioners are called off to war.
Burnett became so enamored with the genre that he and Eriksen are planning to co-produce a separate album of the Sacred Harp songs recorded at Liberty Baptist. In the meantime, Eriksen's creative stamp as arranger and vocalist appears on six "Cold Mountain" album tracks, including the "Idumea" solo.
Eriksen's initiation into shape-note singing came in high school when he unearthed an old Library of Congress album while playing in a hard-core garage-rock band and dabbling in everything from Black Sabbath and whaling ballads to Japanese Koto and South Indian classical music, his major at Amherst College.
He later taught himself to read music with the trademark Sacred Harp triangles, circles, diamonds and squares. One winter while visiting friends at a Massachusetts farmhouse with few entertainment venues, not even a TV, "we just started singing out of the Sacred Harp [songbook] every night, and we finally figured out that there were more people that do this. It took a while to take. But you reach a certain point that it's so under your skin that you can't get rid of it."
While a graduate student at Wesleyan University, he met his future wife, Mirjana Lausevic, an ethnomusicologist from Sarajevo and what he calls a "kindred musical spirit." He helped her form a Bosnian band, and she fell in love with Sacred Harp singing, still his favorite style.
"In my punk rock days, even if you were on stage, you kind of felt like you were a part of something. Sacred Harp is even more like that, with a spiritual angle. I just don't like feeling like I'm fooling somebody. I'd rather have somebody see me with all my flaws, like you do at a singing. They accept you for who you are."
Despite working closely with Minghella and Burnett and sharing the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack with such name attractions as Elvis Costello and Sting, Eriksen is anything but star-struck, and he loathes self-promotion. He'd prefer to chair Sacred Harp conventions, teach the method at colleges and art festivals, and accept the occasional stint as music professor.
He describes "What It Is," his band's first new CD in five years, as "kind of like the ["Cold Mountain"] movie - a mosaic, an odyssey." What makes Eriksen nervous is the possibility that, with the release of "Cold Mountain," shape-note singing will morph from an unadulterated art form into a weak hybrid with mass-market appeal. "My main concern is introducing some strange commercial element to Sacred Harp singing. That's the only down side of this, the possibility of making things weird. But I want it to be out there, to be known. I want people to hear about it and care about it."
"Eriksen connects the present and the ancient with an immediacy that will make your bones tremble"
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A founding member of Cordelia's Dad and Zabe i Babe, an ethnomusicologist who's done extensive rese...A founding member of Cordelia's Dad and Zabe i Babe, an ethnomusicologist who's done extensive research in Bosnia, and a visiting professor of American music at Dartmouth College, Eriksen's credentials are impeccable, though only the tip of his musical iceberg. He is also one of the best hopes for keeping the chain of Anglo-American balladry - a traditional stretching across an ocean and many centuries of oral tradition - unbroken after one century of recorded music. His latest self titled release is about as solo as it gets - just Eriksen's voice, guitar, fiddle and banjo, recorded live without overdubs. His haunting vocals can floor rock fans with the same ancient quality that allowed Sixteen Horsepower's David Eugene Edwards to send shivers through the unsuspecting world of popular music. And his deep, seemingly spiritual connection to the music's ancient roots is a sure draw for growing audiences hooked on Celtic and Nordic roots music. Throw out any notions you have about 'folk', Eriksen connects the present and the ancient with an immediacy that will make your bones tremble.
"The only performer to have shared a stage with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson"
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By Lisa Utman Randall Tim Eriksen claims to be interested in connections, but I suspect he is the...By Lisa Utman Randall
Tim Eriksen claims to be interested in connections, but I suspect he is the coupling point of the myriad influences and styles that seem to swirl about in his head. I imagine a great agitator in place of his cerebral cortex churning the bits and pieces he collects along the way into a long continuous stream of consciousness that is propelled by his arresting tenor out into the cosmos.
Originally from New England, Eriksen spent most of his childhood on Long Island, where he happily passed many days pawing through the accumulated debris along the shoreline. "I would sit on the beach," he explained," and stuff would wash up. 'Oh, that's interesting,' I'd think, and then something else would wash up that would somehow connect to it."
Out of these seaside archeological experiences emerged a lifelong tendency to pick up disparate and seemingly random objects and see a relationship that eludes the rest of us. "Now I go to junk shops and I wind up with a bunch of things that are connected by a degree of happenstance. Being able to think like that allows the unanticipated to happen."
Eriksen spent a fair amount of time banging on his broken guitar and singing out in the woods alone, which could explain his earliest musical incarnation as a member of a hardcore punk/metal/garage band. However, he was not your average singleminded thrasher fully immersed in a myopic utopia. Instead, The Ramones and Black Sabbath mingled with whaling ballads, koto music, Ravi Shankar and kabuki theater in the adolescent soup of his high school years.
In 1986, Eriksen helped found Cordelia's Dad while attending Amherst College. The band has been an ongoing musical experiment that began as sort of a joke fueled by the insistent energy of punk vehemence but morphed into a hybrid through which the three founding members along with various visiting artists deliver new and unusual rocked out twists on traditional folk tunes.
Somehow it almost makes sense that Eriksen concurrently jump-started Cordelia's Dad and completed his undergraduate work in classical South Indian music. The overlapping nature of Eriksen's interests then carried him along in its current so that soon after he graduated he had secured a Watson Fellowship to play and study the vina in Madras, India.
Somewhere before the end of the '80s, Eriksen added sacred harp singing to his repertoire. "The hardcore punk scene and the sacred harp scene share an intensity and they are both very small," he said. "Though sacred harp is even more intense than punk and is even more resistant to popularization." But ultimately, Tim Eriksen is not really part of any one scene. "The scene I exist in doesn't really exist," he insists.
In the early 1990s, while working on a master's degree in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University, Eriksen joined his wife, Mirjana Lausevic, in the band Zabe I Babe as a singer of traditional and popular Bosnian music. Around the same time Eriksen began researching the music of mid 19th century New England while still managing to tour and record with Cordelia's Dad. Amazingly, this time might be considered a stroll down a country lane compared to the Autobahn-paced period that followed Eriksen's graduation from Wesleyan in 1993. In one two month period in 1997, Eriksen recorded four full-length CDs. OK, so maybe they weren't all ultimately released, but still.
Since then Eriksen has become a father twice, taught music at both Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota, performed sound experiments live at Lincoln Center, arranged and conducted the soundtrack for the movie "Cold Mountain" (and sang three of the songs as well), and has released his second solo CD, "Every Sound Below."
"Every Sound Below" contains 10 traditional folk songs and four originals. On it, Eriksen accompanies his own evocative, clear voice on the guitar, fiddle and banjo, and manages to awaken old stories within the context of the 21st century. It's as if the actual recorded sounds somehow resonate with the spirit of John Colby's preaching and the boom of Civil War gunshots.
This September, Eriksen and his wife will be teaching music at Amherst College. "It's an unusual situation," he insisted. "We're sharing the position and we've got total free rein. We're putting together a Music 101 class, but we'll be teaching using the musical traditions of Sacred Harp, South India, Bosnia and punk rock. When we look historically at the punk scene, it's amazing that we were able to make interesting and vital music without even knowing the names of the strings." Again Eriksen will give license to his notions of connection, history and the unanticipated. "The music department (at Amherst) has realized that students are no longer coming in with the American cannon. They're used to iTunes and have access to so much music."
Eriksen, who would be reluctant to call himself a "folky," will perform two sets at the Newport Folk Festival. On Sunday, Aug. 6, Eriksen will assemble a large group of sacred harp singers on stage bringing back a musical genre that hasn't graced the festival since 1968. Later that day, he will take the stage again to perform some tunes from "Every Sound Below."
"The festival people have been incredibly open to this idea, they really pushed for it to happen," he said. "The festival has much bigger ears than I imagined."
"Eriksen is pitch-perfect, working those blue notes with a sorcerer’s subtlety"
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This is definitely not folk music for the faint of heart, but it’s heaven for fans of gothic America...This is definitely not folk music for the faint of heart, but it’s heaven for fans of gothic Americana. Tim Eriksen is one of the world’s more fearless performers: long admired as a singer, steeped in Americana and particularly the eerie northern New England tradition, the multi-instrumentalist is no stranger to singing a-cappella. What’s most impressive is how this album was made: Eriksen sang all fourteen songs solo with neither band nor instrumentation, in a single take, in a tower along the wall of the Benedictine Abbey in Jaroslaw, Poland. His slightly twangy baritone is a potent instrument, but he doesn’t overdo it: this is an album of interpretations, a voice alone setting and maintaining a mood with the lyrics. Yet it also doesn’t offer the impression that he’s holding anything in reserve, waiting til the end when he knows he can empty the tank and blow out his voice if he wants. And what technique! Eriksen is pitch-perfect, working those blue notes with a sorcerer’s subtlety. Tenacity in the face of hardship, mourning and even gruesomeness is the feeling that links most of the often centuries-old songs here: many of them, even a hymn like Son of God, are absolutely macabre. Most of them are in minor keys; and to Eriksen’s credit, he doesn’t sing them all in the same key. The tension lets up a little at the end of the English folk song Gallows Tree, where the prisoner at the end of the rope is finally rescued as the hangman is paid his bribe (for another, absolutely lights-out solo vocal performance of this song, check out the version on Robin O’Brien’s album The Apple in Man).
By contrast, Eriksen gives the narrator of Drowsy Sleeper – dying of food poisoning – a chance to make a forceful last stand. He works segues between several of the songs so seamlessly that it’s hard to tell when one ends and another begins. A couple of them are traditionally sung by women, but Eriksen pulls them off, notably the ominously gleeful A Soldier Traveling from the North, where the girl begs the traveling soldier not to leave (the implication is that she’s pregnant). Eriksen recasts Amazing Grace as rustic Appalachian folk, and finally lets the clouds dissipate with a rousing, revival camp-style version of Better Days Coming to end the album. This ought to appeal to a wide audience, from fans of groups like the Handsome Family to otherworldly Balkan-Applachian singers Æ.
Give Me That Old-Time Singing
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By David Van Biema In the early 1990s, punk rockers, says singer Tim Eriksen, "were looking for t...By David Van Biema
In the early 1990s, punk rockers, says singer Tim Eriksen, "were looking for that kind of intensity in other music." Eriksen's band, Cordelia's Dad, and other postpunks seized Sacred Harp and exported it to trendsetting places from Northampton, Mass., to Portland, Ore. [...]
T-Bone Burnett, who shaped the sound of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," did the same on Anthony Minghella Civil War film "Cold Mountain." Minghella hired Eriksen to sing a non-Harp song but was lured to Harp mecca Henagar, Ala. One result, "Idumea," plays hauntingly over a battle scene - and won a new batch of fans. "I went in because of Jude Law but left with Sacred Harp," says New Yorker Anna Hendrick, 22.
"A distinctive, unvarnished voice"
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A musical magpie, Eriksen picks up the Civil War theme on his second CD, Every Sound Below, with bac...A musical magpie, Eriksen picks up the Civil War theme on his second CD, Every Sound Below, with back-to-back renditions of "The Southern Girl's Reply" and "The Cumberland and the Merrimac." Like every track on this soulful collection of mostly traditional tunes, the performances are sparsely arranged. Eriksen recorded the album alone, playing guitar, fiddle and banjo. He's a storyteller at heart, with a distinctive, unvarnished voice, so it isn't surprising that the narrative ballads, including banjo-driven "Omie Wise" and "John Colby's Hymn," leave the deepest impressions.
"Eriksen's voice sounds hewn from oak"
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Utterly singular is "Every Sound Below"..., the latest from ex-Cordelia's Dad frontman Tim Eriksen, ...Utterly singular is "Every Sound Below"..., the latest from ex-Cordelia's Dad frontman Tim Eriksen, fresh from the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack. A wonderful collection of old-time folk obscurities - from Civil War songs to southern shape-note hymns - Eriksen's voice sounds hewn from oak.
"In his solo work and with his rarely-sighted band Cordelia's Dad he has approached traditional-styled singing with a savage relish that demands total submission by the listener"
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Say what you like about Tim Eriksen, you can't deny he's the sexiest bald man in folk. Joe Broughton...Say what you like about Tim Eriksen, you can't deny he's the sexiest bald man in folk. Joe Broughton, John McCusker – eat your hearts out, boys! The shaved dome, of course, is a sign that he's not a man who is satisfied with a job half done. In his solo work and with his rarely-sighted band Cordelia's Dad he has approached traditional-styled singing with a savage relish that demands total submission by the listener – or total rejection. He's not a "mm, quite like him..." sort of a guy.
So it comes as no surprise, somehow, that his latest CD is composed entirely of unaccompanied solo songs, recorded back to back in a single session in a Benedictine Abbey in Jaroslaw, Poland. In a tower on the perimeter wall, to be exact. It took him an hour. You may struggle to recall the last time an established singer brought out an entirely unaccompanied CD; it is not the done thing these days to leave songs so immodestly underclad. It's plainly an act of provocation – isn't it? "Not really," he insists. "I'm not looking for a battle, but it would be nice if this record was taken as a friendly challenge to get people into hardcore singing, especially the old ballads and hymns and stuff."
Hardcore singing is a fair description of what you'll hear on this album. Eriksen's not interested in a pure tone or a well-mannered delivery. His style is essentially declamatory, occasionally erupting to a bellow that would waken a graveyard. Even his subtleties are hard-edged. What you hear is not a recital of traditional songs gathered up for the listener's delectation and tied together with a tasteful bow. It's more like an archaic private rupture, a man blissfully and totally merging himself with the acoustic space of a medieval tower.
Here is a performer with a passion for the medium of a "live" performance and the immediacy of place. And if that sentence sounds familiar, it's because Gav Davenport used it in his review of Eriksen's Live at Namest CD in the previous issue. Sums it up, really. There's definitely a sense that Tim Eriksen doesn't need an audience to admire his expertise; he's off on his own journey of personal exploration, and we are little more than eavesdroppers. Anything wrong with that? Of course not. He's got the technique, the feel, to make these songs live for us as vividly as they live for him. It's artistry of the most unselfconscious kind. It connects with us because we feel that way too.
Sorry – got all mystical here. Some hard facts: the songs gathered here range over Sacred Harp and tragic balladry, mostly American but with several of them having a recognizable rootstock this side of the Atlantic (John Randolph, for instance, is clearly the US cousin of Lord Randall, and Two Babes being The Cruel Mother in light Appalachian disguise; The Lass of Glenshee wears her origins plainly enough). Eriksen sings them pretty much as they would have been sung in a Kentucky back porch or tin mission, right down to the falsetto leap he appends to the end of alternate lines on A Soldier Traveling from the North. He's really done his fieldwork. There are imperfections – hardly surprising, given that the whole thing was done in a single take. But they're attractive, human flaws, like the wobbly final note on Gallows Tree; he could have fixed it with a simple drop-in, but the authenticity of the performance is left inviolate.
PDF RiderTim Eriksen Stage Plot
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