Tim Grimm and the Family Band – A Stranger In This Time
Corazong – 12 May 2017
Were there to be a Leonard Cohen homage contest, then Tim Grimm and the Family Band would win hands down with Gonna Be Great, the nicotine-stained, smokily talked-sung second track swipe at Trump on A Stranger In This Time. It is, though, in terms of style and vocal, atypical of A Stranger In This Time, the first to be actually credited to both him and the band, which, as the name suggests, is indeed a family affair comprising sons Jackson and Connor alongside wife Jan Lucas, as well as the first time they’ve collaborated, as both writers and musicians, in such a focused manner.
The dominant influences, as on much of Grimm’s work, come from Cash and Guthrie, the latter notable on the album opener These Rollin’ Hills, a reflection of the rural Indiana landscape where he grew up, now overcast by dark clouds, and from whence the album title comes.
It’s Cash and his familiar chugging rhythms that inform So Strong, a straightforward love song that gives way to another narrative with Thirteen Years on which, starting with how lighting struck a walnut tree on the family farm back in ’47, thirteen years before his birth, Grimm talks his way through his relationship with his dad and life on the farm before ending with the wood from that tree being turned into a guitar.
It’s Dylan’s turn for a tip of the hat on Black Snake, a gritty electric guitar blues co-penned with Jackson about the environmental consequences of oil industry greed, the blinkered vision here balanced by the observation that “we’re all walking each other home” on the softly sung, fingerpicked Finding Home. He brings a personal spin to that on the bluegrassy Hard Road, a simple song about himself and his wife (who plays the harmonica while Jason plucks the banjo), about their courtship and life together.
One of the older songs on the album, the simple acoustic fingerpicked The Hungry Grass was inspired by visits to Ireland and the stories he heard about the devastating famine in the 19th century, the line about Tom Guerin a reference to a three year old boy from Skibbereen who survived being buried alive in a mass grave (though his legs were likely crippled by the gravedigger) and grew up to become something of a local legend as a beggar-poet.
Another narrow escape from death follows with Jackson’s banjo-led arrangement of the traditional Darlin’ Cory with Diederik van Wassenaer on fiddle, the album then winding down with the steady, percussive rhythm of Over The Waves, a Noah’s Flood reference (though here a meadowlark rather than a dove) offering hope in troubled times, and, finally, the gentle acoustic lullaby Over Hill and Dale, Tim and Jan harmonising on a reassurance that, when the time is right, darkness will fade to light. It’s albums such as this that keep it shining.