April 1st, 2012

Fishy Circumstances

Tim Eriksen at Tabernacle Folk

Way back when I was an undergraduate, maxineofarc introduced me to a band called Cordelia's Dad. I went to a number of their concerts over my years in Western Mass, not always with her. Their lead singer, musician, and composer was named Tim Eriksen, scholar of early American songs, sacred harp singer, and accomplished folk musician. In terms of accomplishments, he's only added more instruments to his repertoire over the intervening years.

This weekend, he played in Notting Hill as part of the Tabernacle Folk Festival. It was my first time at the venue, a friendly mix of café/restaurant, art gallery, dance studio, and performance space in a sensibly divided-up ex-church. As part of the festival, there were two concerts - we only attended the first, which was mostly Tim Eriksen, but with a sponsored older and young musician collaboration in the middle, and a first-time public collaboration between Eriksen and Eliza Carthy for the last section.

He began with "Farewell to Old Bedford", one of only two songs he performed which I knew from his Cordelia's Dad days. He continued through a largely late eighteenth-century set, with fiddle, bajo sexto, guitar, and banjo. The last song was banjo, an utterly extraordinary performance of virtuoso fingerpicking, which ended with playing off of the resonances between strings, frame, and his deep, rich voice, resonating the instrument beyond his last plucking from behind its soundboard. The bajo sexto was the only instrument he'd traveled with from the US: thanks to luggage restrictions, it was much easier to borrow on arrival.

The set with Eliza Carthy was a fun, somewhat haphazard one, with some prepared songs, and some improvised from common knowledge, including several sacred harp ones. My favorite was a song for which he knew an upbeat version, and she knew a downbeat one, but when her tune was transposed to major, they played nicely off of each other: an ultimately perky song about winter, death, and time to think of the poor.

I'm delighted we were able to go!