Tim Dickinson – How To Prepare
Self Released – Out Now
Tim Dickinson’s latest album, How To Prepare, is a collection of songs that are personal, intimate, in both an emotional and a geographical sense. You have the feeling of looking into the immediate world of the singer-songwriter though without a hint of voyeurism. This sense of openness and enclosure pervades the songs.
This album does not so much have themes as strands of thin fibre, often diaphanous, that can connect songs. You could read the section about the songs on Tim’s website but if, like me, you want to bring it into your own world, at least first, leave them until later.
For me, the two key strands are connected, intertwined. There is a considerable amount of looking back, a feeling of having lived a considerable number of your allotted span. There is enough history to reflect, yet there is also the future, however short (or long). When I Was Young is one of the clearest of these, marking the stages of life through the relationship with drink. When We Go is perhaps a tad gloomier (but, hey, this is folk) but why should we not confront the inevitable? At the same time, this track combines the other main strand of love. The love here though is not the love of the first rush of youth, nor the impetuous love that pursues. This is a deep love, a love in a relationship, a telling of love and commitment, and a love that excludes, rightfully, ownership:
I’m here to break your fall. That’s not to say I don’t share your fears:
I’m still growing tall and long in years.
I’m loathe to wake you up, as much as I am scared to let you sleep:
You’re not mine to keep,
But I’m not afraid to know it’s over when we go, now not at all
Departing clearly features across the album – another wisp of connections. As well as When We Go, there is Father’s Day about a friend losing their father but shifts in emphasis to the singer losing theirs; and in the last line of the last track of the album – I Want to:
I know you won’t care, but I want to show you
How to put friends and family first
How to prepare for the very worst
Midst all this there pops up a bit of light relief, at least in tune, with Lavender. However, listener beware, the tune belies the tension of chasing love whilst not understanding. At one level The World’s Widow provides a suitable companion piece, perhaps reflecting upon love that at any age has its problems – “and he’s tongue-tied and fumbling, all finger and thumbs”. Perhaps. But I get a sense of traditional folktale, a feeling that here is a woman, the Worlds Widow, in the dark, tempting man who ‘yields to her beckoning’. Death And The Lady reversed?
In the midst of all this are three tracks that seem to have another strand, one not encountered thus far. House, Stray Dog and Eclogue present an acknowledgement of, and a concern for, nature and the environment. House is a simple lyric on the face of it, questioning what we have done, being seduced by things to the point that “I have become the things I heard the most because it’s easier than to change” Eclogue and Stray Dog contain lots of references to woods and flowers, birds and the earth, both direct and indirect.
But what about the music I hear you ask. Tim’s voice has great depth and movement in, according to some, a Jeff Buckley sort of way. I think that there are times when Tim Buckley would be a better simile in range and sweep. This may take some getting used to, given the nuances in some of the lyrics. Don’t let this put you off though. His range and control adds much much more to the texture of the words. His guitar is clean and clear and he is joined, variously, by Chris Hill on bass, Jessie May Smart on violin, and Justin Quinn on Spanish guitar and Laud.
I often call to mind a friend who said that youth was wasted on the young, another recurring filament here, and this album can certainly make you consider that. But let’s just agree that we are all in our youth and that Tim Dickinson can be one of the voices illustrating that. It has been ten years since his last excursion into the acoustic world of the singer-songwriter; let’s hope that the gap is very much reduced.
Available via Bandcamp: https://timdickinson.bandcamp.com/album/how-to-prepare