Canadian trio take a trip to the Deep South.
Wyndham Wallace 2010-09-17
It’s somehow hard to believe that Taylor Kirk, the man behind Timber Timbre, is Canadian, so drenched in the sweat of the American Deep South is his eponymous third album (actually his first UK release). Filled with the kind of tunes that sound as though they were conceived specifically with the likes of True Blood in mind, Kirk’s world is dark, brooding and ever so slightly threatening, combining folk, blues and country to conjure up a world in which – as he puts it on No Bold Villain – “One of us is not normal / And it might not be you”. Throw in wheezing organs, out-of-tune saloon pianos and vocals treated with a claustrophobic reverb and it’s enough to make you reconsider that trip to Toronto.
It’s a subtle affair, though, shadowy yet full of space. Opener Demon Host begins mournfully, Kirk’s voice, accompanied only by guitar until near the song’s conclusion, delivering lines so gently that their enigmatic portent takes time to grasp. But the confusing succession of religious iconography sinks in slowly, with lines like “Death, she must have been your whale / A bone beneath the reaper’s veil” an indication of the voodoo-esque content to come, and as the album progresses these images begin to leap out with increasing strength beyond the intimate backing of autoharp, lap steel, violin and drums laid down by his new bandmates, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier. Like random sentences extracted from a Southern Gothic short story, they leave the listener to piece together evidence, with Magic Arrow offering a vision of “perimeters scratched across the nation’s native hide” over what could pass for Calexico, had they ever been produced by Angelo Badalamenti. Trouble Comes Knocking, meanwhile, recalls Mannish Boy, albeit one with chained legs, threats such as “When your trouble comes knocking / I hope you ain’t there” underlined by rattlesnake percussion and strings like distant sirens.
It’s Lay Down in theTall Grass that takes the Oscar on this cinematic feast, however, its twitching groove combining Dr John, Tom Waits and Elvis Presley before breaking out into the kind of guitar solo that Duane Eddy might perform in his nightmares. It’s the perfect introduction to Kirk’s film noir environment of empty roadhouses and dusty jukeboxes, pitch-black swamplands and spooky shacks. You might not want to live there, as they say, but it’s an extraordinary place to visit.
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