A master songwriter augments his status.
During the past 25 years or so, Tim Grimm has built a reputation as a troubadour for our times, continually touring and performing – even with a little acting on his days off – and, as a result of building a catalogue of perceptive and beautiful songs, is often referred to as the songwriter’s songwriter. His latest album, ‘Gone’, does absolutely nothing to change any of that.
Grimm hadn’t even planned to release another album in 2020-21, but as with so many other artists, with concert halls and theatres closed for the duration, put pen to paper and documented his reflections of the world as he watched the ravages of the pandemic take its toll. ‘A Dream’ uses haunting strings and piano to build beautifully into the almost perfect way to open an album, before gently rolling to a close, this dream maintaining all the while an upbeat vision of the future….“I dreamed we were walking up a hill in tall grasses/out of the darkness and into the light.” The simple guitar and banjo of ‘Carry Us Away’ is a poignant love song, full of angst and melancholy, before the great fun which is ‘Cadillac Hearse’, a fun road trip of a song, styled a little like Johnny Cash’s ‘A Boy Named Sue’, with similar pace and phrasing. This tells tale of a hearse that doubles as an ambulance on a racing mission to deliver a baby, which delivers a feeling of rural North Carolina in 1964 with “beans a-cooking” and “bread a-cooling.”
There are songs about the books and trees made more relevant during the pandemic, but the real meat of the album comes in the songs reflecting on loss, particularly those lost during the past year or so that greatly influenced Grimm. Standout track ‘Dreaming of King Lear’ is a tribute to three songwriters who inspired him; Michael Smith, Eric Taylor and David Olney. These three were giants of song to Grimm and have left some legacy since their sad passing in 2020. Grimm writes “Each of you were jesters, but none of you were fools” and “all of you were preachers and prophets without fear/your talismans were bottles, books and dreaming of King Lear.”
Grimm pays further tribute to Eric Taylor with a beautiful rendition of Taylor’s song ‘Joseph Cross’, the story of a dying Native American, with more of that haunting violin, and he also asked Taylor’s widow, Susan Lindfors Taylor, to sing harmonies on the track. The title track feels an authentic song of the pandemic, how things have changed for everyone so dramatically because of the impact of the virus. “I’d like to call you brother but the bridges have all burned/and the things you say without a mask bring darkness to the world.” And the line “….the man who brought us Paradise has laid down his guitar” references another of his lost heroes, John Prine.
This is very much a family affair with wife and children contributing with banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, harmonica and vocals and the quality of musicianship is of a high order throughout. Grimm has created a strong collection here and while reflecting on dreams past and present, on personal and community loss, still manages to produce a smile on the listener’s face.