“I’m interested in connections,” writes Tim Eriksen in the liner notes to his long awaited second solo CD, Every Sound Below. Tim’s concept of music as a link between the past and present, between individuals and communities, between the world’s spirit and his own, has led him to the ten traditional American folk ballads he reanimates here and the four haunting original compositions that round out this microcosmic view of pre-20th Century life and its 21st Century resonance.
Regardless of its source, Tim views music as “an interaction with the future that views ‘now’ as the past, and the past as ‘now.’” That Tim may be the only performer to have shared a stage with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson is an indication of his contemporary appeal and audience.
On Every Sound Below, Tim brings sounds of the American past into the “now,” starting with the first track, “The Stars Their Match,” an original a cappella salute to sunrise in the strong, brave tenor voice that has won him awe in folk circles. He follows with two chilling accounts of the Civil War (“The Southern Girl’s Reply,” “The Cumberland and the Merrimac”); the hopeful lament of a traveling preacher in 1810 (“John Colby’s Hymn,” one of two songs utilizing harmonic, “overtone” singing that imitates the buzz of nature); murder ballads (“Omie Wise,” “Two Sisters”); and sprinkles in a pair of instrumentals (the twinkling banjo original “Bassett Creek” and the traditional fiddle tune, “The Soldier’s Return”). Several songs were drawn from Frank and Anne Warner’s field recordings of East Coast traditional music, which Tim was instrumental in persuading Appleseed to release on two CDs. Tim has a scholar’s instinct for uncovering obscure and often unrecorded folks songs, and his liner notes give a fascinating insight into their history and his own sensibilities. Tim’s two other compositions on Every Sound Below are the enigmatic “A Tiny Crown,” a fragmented tale of imagination, reality and sea monkeys, and the eerie, hovering title song, a walk through moonlit soundscapes of memory and matter.
Using the same minimal, live-in-the-studio technique as on his first CD in 2001, Tim performs alone here, cycling between guitar, banjo, and fiddle without overdubs, a stark approach in keeping with the direct connections between Tim, his music and his listeners, whose numbers include British folk master Martin Carthy, old-time folk performer and expert John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, and T Bone Burnett, musical producer of the surprise hit bluegrass-packed soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” “Cold Mountain” (for which he drafted Tim to teach and lead the cast, including 50 Romanian extras, in the “shape note” singing style) and “Down from the Mountain.”