Over the years, I seem to have come across Tim Edey in some memorable locations. The upstairs concert room of one of our local hotels for one. Not in itself unusual, but it was 1.30am, and he and Alan Prosser were studiously ignoring all signals to stop playing, enthusiastically aided by an audience in thrall to the improvisations they were weaving. Or with Brendan Power, taking the first slot in the morning at a February festival when the hall was so cold they were almost through their set before taking their overcoats off. Even more memorable than the locations, though, was the music being produced. Two qualities stood out, the sheer energy of his performances and his mastery of the chosen instruments, acoustic guitar, and melodeon on those occasions.
Tim’s latest solo album, How Do You Know? gives him plenty of opportunities to demonstrate these qualities again, along with a large helping of added variety. Variety coming from the range of musicians he’s enticed into working with him (collaborations have never been something Tim shies away from) and the eclectic spread of musical genres that result. But it is also a demonstration of how wide-ranging his own talents are. This range is nothing new, on his first solo album in 2001 he played the melodeon, button accordion, guitar, whistle, bodhran, banjo, piano, mandolin and bass, but to that, for the current album, we can add vocals and songwriting.
The album kicks off with something of a return to Tim’s traditional music roots, three reels that showcase Tim’s box playing, duetting on the buttons with Ireland’s Dermot Byrne and with Session A9’s Gordon Gunn on fiddle. However, these three are soon joined by a female voice, no lyrics, but neither is this anything to do with Irish traditional mouth music, this is scat singing, straight out of the jazz repertoire. The track is entitled Box n Fiddle Party and there’s no escaping its infectious energy, immediately setting the feet tapping.
Without a doubt, Tim could produce an entire album in this style and there’d be a long line of world-class musicians eager to join in the party with him. But that’s not his way and the second track, Tim taking vocals on The Elevator Blues, changes the mood completely. The song was originally released last summer as a charity single, successfully raising awareness of the debilitating effects of severe phobias. In this case a phobia of enclosed spaces, that move, vertically, a phobia with which Tim is intimately familiar. Having taken great pleasure from Tim’s music over several years, it was a rather sobering experience in 2012 to read an interview, at times painfully honest, that he gave to Living Tradition magazine. There’s no need to detail here the mental agonies that so nearly derailed his career, a facsimile of the complete article is still available on Tim’s website. Read it and marvel, then enjoy his music with renewed admiration.
Tim’s vocals are featured several more times on How Do You Know? including The Taoist’s Tale, the track that gives the album its title with its repetitive questioning, how do you know if luck will turn out to be good luck or bad? Tim duets with Transylvanian singer Lizabett Russo on this and also on Tim’s original song You Give Me Your Love where his jazz influences are once more prominent. Lizabett’s voice can be heard on the backing vocals of other tracks and it’s her adding the scat line to both instrumental and vocal mixes. In contrast, Three Miles from Annascaul, a traditional song from Kerry, is given just a little percussion behind Tim’s voice and melodeon with Lizabett joining in the chorus.
The remaining instrumental tracks continue expanding the album’s palette. A Night in Baile Nboc is a set of 4 tunes primarily featuring Tim’s guitar and whilst they include a hornpipe and a reel, the swing jazz influence is present throughout. In contrast, Hector the Hero, with the fiddle of Capercaillie’s Charlie McKerron initially taking up the melody before being joined by Tim’s melodeon, treats this classic lament in traditional fashion. The slow Strathspey, Dean Brig o’ Edinburgh, features just Tim’s guitar and a lyrical fretless bass line from Steve Cooney, blending perfectly. So many contrasts, such variety, but all the instrumental tracks unified by the sheer delight Tim takes in playing.
Tim has had phenomenal success over the last few years, becoming a sought-after guest on worldwide tours with artists of the stature of The Chieftains and Natalie McMaster, interspersed with solo tours and numerous festival appearances. Fortunately, he also finds time to head into the studio. So the majority of us, who only rarely catch one of his live performances, can keep track of at least some of the different musical avenues he travels. Listening to How Do You Know? is a great illustration of how rewarding these periodic catch-ups can be.
How Do You Know? is available now via Gnatbite Records
The record is available from Tim’s website at a flat rate of just £10 including postage worldwide.
Order your copy here: timedey.co.uk/shop