Review: Tim Grimm, 'Wilderness Songs...'
Part compilation album, part new material, Tim Grimm’s new album Wilderness Songs and Bad Man Ballads invites you in with his warm, conversational, roughly gorgeous voice. He keeps you listening because the songs richly describe the details of the characters that live in those songs.
The Indiana Americana singer/songwriter calls on friends Krista Detor, Jason Wilber, Bobbie Lancaster, The White Lightning Boys (for some scampering bluegrass) and wife Jan Lucas to lend texture and vocal beauty to the record.
The songs, based on the writings of his friend, Scott Russell Sanders, become a showcase for the storyteller, sharing his ability to pair his words with music that lopes, twists, twangs and is full of mystery. The people in many of these stories are from another time but their messages are true today; individuals struggling with personal demons and lives that are dealt a raw deal, yet still harboring hope.
The gentle guitar and Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad vibe of “Fruit” and the Carter Family echo of “Frostbite of the Soul” were originally released on 2007’s Wilderness Plots, while “Rebecca Versailles” and her children crossing the Mason/Dixon line and “Squaw” are from Grimm’s 2008 release Holding Up the World.
Of the new songs, the best are “Cover These Bones” - with Bobbie Lancaster sharing haunting and brooding vocals - and the lead track, “China”, s one of two with Grimm’s son Conner on bass. The elder Grimm sings of taking to the Ohio River, seeking redemption and hope, and feeling desperation.
Tim Grimm’s given us the finest single album he’s ever released. And there is no one better that Grimm when writing music that is about Indiana, and about life. It may, compilation or not, be the best roots album of 2011.
|Reviews of Holding Up The World|
Now lets get this straight. Just because an artist covers "Blowin in the Wind" does not mean he sounds like Bob Dylan. Just wanted to get that straight from the start.
"Holding Up The World" is Grimms fifth solo album and his first for Corazong, and if the quality of his previous outings are only half of the songs here, then I've been missing out on a real treat. Isnt it annoying when an album comes along from an artist that youve never heard of and you really like, only to find out they've been around for ages. But I suppose it now means I can explore some of his old stuff with the thought that its gonna be pretty good.
Recording songs live with just voice and guitar and then adding layers of instruments that fit the song, Grimm has delivered a mighty fine modern folk record.
The title track opens the album and you know what? It just gets ya! There and then, it grabs you and doesnt let go. My god its beautiful. Instantly hummable, with lyrics that engage your thoughts and make you both sad and happy simultaneously. What initially seems like a love song to his wife, like all the best songs it also says something else. But what is it? ...Holding up the world, so many things get broken, when youre holding up the world, you cant protect your heart....
Grimm is a storyteller, up there with the likes of Crowell, Earle and Jackson Browne. He sings of families being lost, the loss of rural America, returnees from Basra, slaves escaping a horrendous life, floods, yearning, anguish and the reason why people faced with such adversity carry on whilst being totally empathetic toward their plight or feelings. He also brings in other music genres within the Americana field like some Appalachian on "Or Bust". Bit like Woody Guthrie.
Supported by Jason Wilber from John Prines band, and label mate Krista Detor, Grimm has restored my faith in todays folk music. It was starting to wane, but this guy has bought it back.
Im not going to single out any other tracks for praise. I cant, because theyre all excellent. Its taken me ages to get around to reviewing this album and thats simply because Ive been too busy listening to it.
Oh yes, he does do a version of "Blowin in the Wind". But it is a good one.
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Recreation News AUGUST 2009 43
POPULAR MUSIC with Kerry Dexter
Frontiers of geography and frontiers of the heart, borders between expectation and reality, hopes and dreams, plans and outcomes these are the things Tim Grimm explores through ten songs on Holding Up the World. For the title track, the Indiana- based musician gently expresses the varied ideas of strength and vulnerability, connection and isolation that fill the days of family and work life.
Holding up the world, you can see when things get broken/But your hands are tied, you cant reach down/You've got to stand so strong/Holding up the world he sings. In Rebecca Versailles there's the voice of a woman facing other frontiers, a black woman in19th-century Indiana, who sits in the back of a classroom of white students, carving quills and making copybooks for them, and soaking up the reading lessons to go home at night and teach her own four children because they are not allowed to come to class with the white children. Its a quiet, hopeful ballad, filled with strength and holding many levels of meaning within three short verses and choruses. Or Bust is a lively tale of another time, people heading west from the dust bowl to California in the 1930s,a vivid trip into a brief moment on that journey.
Grimm sings in a rough-edged tenor that well suits the stories he unfolds, from the modern political commentary of This Holeto the evocation of time, change, and aging in So It Goes. His song Heart So Full makes a generous and hopeful bookend to the title track. Its homecoming song of sorts. Long Way Round finds the songwriter taking a clear-eyed look at lasting love and lasting futures.Grimm closes with a cover of Blowin' in the Wind, by one his favorite songwriters, Bob Dylan. If you like thoughtful tunesmiths such as Dylan, Jesse Winchester, Gretchen Peters, and Terri Hendrix, then you'll find much to enjoy here from Tim Grimm.
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Tim Grimm - Holding Up The World (CoraZong) If you were to approach Tim Grimm's 'Holding up the World' with no prior knowledge of either artist or his work, there are two big clues as to what to expect. Firstly there is the excellent Dutch label CoraZong which deals with American influenced roots music and secondly a studious exploration of the art work gives you the clue as to the nature of Tim Grimm's ruminations on his mid west background. Except of course that he's disguised any autobiographical connections by outlining a series of character sketches that take in a variety of people from the returning Iraqi soldier in 'This Hole' to the jilted Mid West farmer on 'So It Goes'. The imagery is lucid, the vocal phrasing pregnant with emotion, the phrasing frequently world weary and the narratives are realistic enough in a Dylan meets Springsteen kind of way to gather widespread appeal.
Pete Feenstra - independent music promoter
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“One of the best storytelling songwriters in America”
|Reviews of The Back Fields|
|“The Back Fields” is absolutely my favorite new release that I’ve heard since I can remember. Obviously, the songs are just wonderful as are the harmonies, but there’s something more to it, the music just really tells such great stories, conveys such deep emotion, I don’t know, it just really touched me like nothing has in a long time.”
Mark Michaelis- WGDR, Plainfield, VT
“The Back Fields” will always be modern in the same way that Tracy Chapman’s music will never be “90’s music” and Hal Ketchum’s songs can’t strictly be termed “country.” Because it will never sound dated, naming a genre does Tim Grimm’s music a disservice. The banjo, harmonica and bluegrass inflections are beside the point. Even when the album sounds country, it’s either in a gritty or easy way….
Above all, “The Back Fields” contains the best trait of great country music: it makes the specific universal and the universal personal…..The sound and emotional hues of “The Back Fields” are— very plainly and tenderly—timeless.
Elizabeth Ross, The Herald-Times, Bloomington,IN
“Tim Grimm always has been a first-rate journeyman songwriter and performer. With this CD he ascends to the next level….” Rich Warren- The Midnight Special
“Another great piece of Americana writing and playing. In these days of troubled times it’s good to hear the other side of America coming through loud and clear…. If you scratch the surface hard enough you will find the real writers shining through….” Lawrence Nitschke- AUSTRALIA
“one of the best albums of these last years….”
Mike Penard, ISA Radio, FRANCE
“Tim’s songwriting reminds me of Guy Clark. The songwriting is simple, straightforward yet full of poetry. It closely observes everyday life and distills the small moments of joy and pleasure. Grimm’s vocal style also reminds me of Guy Clark’s unassuming way of putting across a song. It’s a voice in service to the lyric…..Tim Grimm reminds us of the authenticity of rural life and it’s heartfelt emotions, a life lived close to nature, in consonance with the cycle of the seasons. In this time we live in, when all seems inauthentic, when our politics are debased by rulers gone mad with power, Tim’s music helps reaffirm our faith in what this nation has been for more than two centuries and something to which we might someday return.”
Richard Silverstein- Seattle
“one of the most sincere and genuine roots songwriters
in America…..one of the best albums of the year”
Remo Ricaldone- “American Roots Radio”, ITALY
|Reviews of Names|
AMERICAN ROOTS Music- “Male Artist of the Year”
Gene Shay- WXPN- Philadelphia
#1 Album in Folk Radio- Nov.’04
|Reviews of Coyotes's Dream|
|Interview by Doyle Sharp at www.cybrcaf.com.
Beat Magazine, available on line here: http://www.beat.com.au/columns.shtml#high
“One of the best folk-Americana records we’ve EVER heard.” Ctrl. Alt. Country
“ Grimm writes and sings in the tricky grey area between folk and country, where so many fall between the cracks, by turn evoking Woody Guthrie, whose 1913 Massacre he covers, and Johnny Cash….Grimm is a powerful enough writer and singer to reconcile these dichotomies on an album which, with it’s gripping rural story songs, can be compared to Nebraska, though Grimm, while often as dark as Springsteen, isn’t as pessimistic.” John Conquest, 3rd COAST MUSIC
“ an artist that walks the world with a keen eye for detail and the ability to capture the human moment with candor and beauty…continuing the tradition of the mighty fine story told from mouth to mouth, ear to ear, heart to heart.” Carrie Newcomer
“… ..masterpiece…You can almost hear the coyote calls, the crackle of the fire and the smell of fresh brewed coffee on Coyote’s Dream…He’s a quiet master following in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie and John Prine.” The Courier, Tupelo, MS
“Coyote’s Dream” cement(s) his growing reputation as a fine songwriter rooted in the Woody Guthrie tradition…. As a songwriter and performer, Grimm has learned his Guthrie lessons well. His songs are uniquely his own, yet they seem instantly familiar.” Mike Regenstreif, SING OUT !
“an engaging, perceptive songwriter—highly literate, subtly nuanced and inventive while retaining a traditionalist’s love for classic country folk and bluegrass… Grimm travels the highways and byways of rural America, searching every dark corner and crevice of the beaten path to find some sort of beauty and purity. His voice is world weary but never beaten…..” David Coonce, The Herald-Times, Bloomington, IN
“Grimm is another link in the chain of literate singer songwriters that sees a side to the story that we always miss. The songs are little novels that unfold slowly and then knock you off your feet when you’re not looking… A real find.” Village Records
“… a wealth of folk roots and engaging songs that play in the mind like vivid short stories or films…” Jim Manion, NO DEPRESSION
host, Acoustic Planet-CHES, Canada
"Tim Grimm should be considered an Indiana treasure. This one (Wilderness Songs and Bad Man Ballads) blew me away when I first listened back in the fall and still haunts me 4 months later. I nominate "China" as song of the year."