One of the most recognizable voices and distinguished performers in American folk music, Tim Eriksen knows how to evoke the long and mysterious history of America’s roots, the secret record of our trials and loves, handed down over generations. Singing of grit and heartache, of wandering and faith, the scholar, singer, and multicultural multi-instrumentalist turns even the most worn ditties, the most staid tradition, into a buzzing, resonant revelation, with minimal, compelling instrumentation and a soaring voice that is both spot-on and raw.
Tim’s following in the Monadnock region grows with each return engagement. Electric Earth Concerts is pleased to be presenting him as part of their June in Jaffrey music festival. The concert is at Grand View Barn in Jaffrey on Tuesday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Raised in New England and constantly inspired by its culture and legacies, Eriksen came into his own in the New York punk scene of the 1980s, and its rough-and-ready ethos and fever-pitch guitar lines remain close to his heart. Yet his world included the half-wild abandoned places and woods of his home region, where old graveyards and forgotten songbooks shaped his songwriting and arrangements for everything from banjo to the daunting Mexican acoustic bass, or bajo sexto. Fascination with the complex, multilayered music of South India led Eriksen to live there and devote himself to one of Indian classical music’s most challenging instruments, the veena. A long-standing gig as singer and guitarist for traditional and turbo-folk Bosnian band Zabe i Babe, an encounter with an East African gospel choir that led to an ongoing music friendship—all these experiences have had significant influence on Eriksen’s own songs and style.
From these bits and pieces, Eriksen crafted a vision that embraces the goofy and the grave, the silly and the deadly serious of American tradition, for a whole that sometimes harkens back to a village frolic, sometimes suggests a completely contemporary, contemplative moment. He approaches his material with both heart and intellect, able to untangle historical fact and find the right, living fiction to move audiences.
With his diverse sound and wide-ranging ideas, Eriksen has played everywhere from rock clubs as the driving force behind the folk-noise band Cordelia’s Dad, to jazz clubs in collaboration with master musicians like Latin great Omar Sosa, to major concert halls like Carnegie Hall. He’s appeared on both Prairie Home Companion and the Academy Awards, and may be one of the only musicians on earth to have shared the stage with Doc Watson and with Kurt Cobain (not on the same night).
A seasoned performer and academically trained ethnomusicologist (Eriksen holds a degree from one of the best programs of its kind at Wesleyan University), Eriksen has found new sides to old songs, unearthed forgotten ballads and tunes, and brought them to radically new places, including the acclaimed feature film Cold Mountain, for which he worked with producer T Bone Burnett. He has been a major figure in renewing interest in the distinctly American four-part shape-note singing tradition, a music based in European American hymnody, but with a distinctive harmonies and powerful vocals. His committed, tuneful, yet completely unfussy singing style reflects this foundation. In contrast to many musicians who engage deeply with tradition, Eriksen also crafts original pieces and songs, as well as striking arrangements of traditional numbers. Drawing on the structures, modes, and harmonies he has encountered within and beyond American music, Eriksen is the consummate storyteller. His songs have been recorded by roots icons Allison Kraus and Union Station, and stand as a vibrant counterpoint to his consideration of American musical history in all its intensity and quirkiness.
Concert-goers are invited to arrive early with picnic baskets to enjoy dinner on the Grand View lawn with it’s dramatic proximity to Mt. Monadnock.
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