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every sound below



Tim Eriksen's concept of music as a link between the past and present, between individuals and communities, between the world's spirit and his own, has led him to the ten traditional American folk ballads he reanimates and the four haunting original compositions that complete the microcosmic view of pre-20th Century life and its 21st Century resonance on "Every Sound Below," his long awaited second solo CD.

Already recognized as one of America's finest young traditional balladeers through his live appearances, 2001 solo album and numerous CDs with internationally popular "folk noise" group Cordelia's Dad, Tim's abilities and expertise in authentic folk music earned him three featured songs as a vocalist and two as an arranger on the hit "Cold Mountain" movie soundtrack in 2004. That Tim is probably the only performer to have shared a stage with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson is an indication of his contemporary appeal and audience.

On "Every Sound Below," Tim brings sounds of the American past into the "now," starting with the first track, "The Stars Their Match," an original a cappella salute to sunrise in the strong, brave tenor voice that has won him awe in folk circles. He follows with two chilling accounts of the Civil War ("The Southern Girl's Reply," "The Cumberland and the Merrimac"), the hopeful lament of a traveling preacher in 1810 ("John Colby's Hymn," one of two songs utilizing harmonic, "overtone" singing that imitates the buzz of nature), murder ballads ("Omie Wise," "Two Sisters"), and sprinkles in a pair of instrumentals (the twinkling banjo original "Bassett Creek" and the traditional fiddle tune, "The Soldier's Return"). Several songs were drawn from Frank and Anne Warner's field recordings of East Coast traditional music, which Tim was instrumental in persuading Appleseed to release on two CDs (see bio). Tim has a scholar's instinct for uncovering obscure and often unrecorded folks songs, and his liner notes give a fascinating insight into their history and his own sensibilities. Tim's two other compositions on "Every Sound Below" are the enigmatic "A Tiny Crown," a fragmented tale of imagination, reality and sea monkeys, and the eerie, hovering title song, a walk through moonlit soundscapes of memory and matter

Using the same minimal, live-in-the-studio technique as on his first CD in 2001, Tim performs alone here, cycling between guitar, banjo, and fiddle without overdubs, a stark approach in keeping with the direct connections between Tim, his music and his listeners, whose numbers include British folk master Martin Carthy, old-time folk performer and expert John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, and T Bone Burnett, musical producer of the surprise hit bluegrass-packed soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou," "Cold Mountain" and "Down from the Mountain." In May and June 2004, Tim will join many of the musicians from those soundtracks on the "Great High Mountain Tour" in more than two dozen cities. And listen for "I Love Music," a song from his first CD, on the soundtrack of Billy Bob Thornton's upcoming movie, "Chrystal." 


“The revival of the American hymn is sometimes an underground movement – literally. . . Signs of an above ground resurgene for Protestant hymnody include Every Sound Below, a recent CD by the musician and musicologist Tim Eriksen, featuring his compelling, nasally Appalachian singing, often of 19th Century Protestant hymns. On ‘John Colby’s Hymn’ (1810), Mr. Eriksen breaks – perfectly appropriately – into droning central-Asian overtone singing.”
The New York Sunday Times
“Though Every Sound Below doesn’t contain any harmony singing -- it was played entirely by Eriksen on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and vocals, with no overdubs -- the robust sincerity of the Sacred Harp shines through on tracks such as “The Stars Their Match” and ‘Occom’s Carol (O Sight of Anguish).’

[Eriksen’s] willing to let his instruments do all the talking throughout Every Sound Below, especially on the happier numbers. “The Soldier’s Return” is a jaunty Anglo-American dance tune played by Eriksen on his grandfather’s 100-year-old violin. (“I guess I’m part of a tradition of questionable fiddling,” he comments overmodestly in the liner notes.) And on the banjo tune “Bassett Creek,” he manages back-breaking speed without electric volume or Merlefest-main-stage theatrics; it’s spectacularly natural.

Not that Eriksen can’t venture into the unnatural and still pull it off. “A Tiny Crown,” six tracks in, is where many of Every Sound Below’s Pete Seeger-buying listeners will be jarred: Over a peculiar, perhaps Indian-inspired guitar (Eriksen studied classical vina music in college), we get a voice that, for once, and suitably, has some ego behind it. Here the man frets, in a strangely phrased drone alternating with whistling, over what happens when sea monkeys escape: ‘Once in my childhood bed I found,’ he tells us, ‘a tiny scepter.’ 
Similarly, on the banjo-based ‘John Colby’s Hymn,’ Eriksen suddenly breaks into Tuvan-style overtone singing -- an eerie sound that I originally thought came from a jew’s-harp. ‘It can sound mystical,’ notes Eriksen of the approach, ‘but it’s just physics.’ Here, and on the imagistic, self-penned title track, he somehow keeps these physics from sounding contrived.

The voice on Every Sound Below is neither a regular-guy voice, like that of ‘Yankee John Galusha in Minerva, New York,’ the source singer of ‘The Cumberland and the Merrimac,’ nor that of an exhortative, professionally sincere Springsteen. In fact, the best analogue for Eriksen is a completely different kind of guy with a guitar: that keening, nasally Kurt Cobain, in that brief period before he began to believe that Nirvana was his personal hell—a man singing not for the spotlight but for himself.”
-- Washington City Paper

“A devoted scholar of myriad folk traditions and vocal techniques, Eriksen seems to speak from the graves of long-ago eras, so expressive and uncommonly genuine are his root-bare recitations of Civil War story-songs and Appalachian murder ballads.”
-- The Isthmus, Madison, WI.
“Tim's strong presence on the soundtrack of Cold Mountain brought his talents to a wider audience, but this chap remains admirably uncompromising and true to his art and beliefs . . .His second solo record for Appleseed is a suitably stark yet brightly shining expression of his role as musical explorer and communicator, positing his belief in the concept of music as a link between the past and the present. His deeper studies of the 20th century composer mavericks and all manner of ethnic musics ranging from Indian vina to the shape-note singing of the Sacred Harp tradition, all these and many more inform his strongly characterised performances of the ten traditional pieces and four original songs on this album, simultaneously (and almost effortlessly) evoking worlds ancient and modern. This new offering was recorded as live, with no overdubs, and is a typically raw yet enchanting experience for the listener, very much as you'd hear Tim in concert (and make sure you refer to his typically compelling background notes as you're listening -- they possess that mixture of the erudite and the pithy that’s so the essence of Tim). He opens with a brief unaccompanied song of his own composition, and then takes us on a veritable tour through all manner of musics. Sometimes he performs straight, full square within the relevant idiom - for instance, there's expert renditions of tunes on fiddle or banjo that would knock some ‘fulltimers’ into a proverbial cocked hat, yet even these employ Tim’s own peculiar stylistic felicities. Other renditions are tempered with Tim’s distinctive blend of amassing and absorbing a wide range of influences. Many are informed by his empathy with his musical inheritance (remember that Tim was instrumental in the two earlier Appleseed issues which brought the first commercial release of archival recordings of traditional American songs -- true ‘bedrock Americana’ -- collected by Frank and Anne Warner between 1940 and 1966). Tim also sure possesses the knack of being able to credibly integrate and intermingle elements of different musical traditions within the same performance (as on ‘John Colby's Hymn’, where Tim interpolates passages of Tuvan overtone singing into an inspired traditional-style setting of this early 19th century preacher’s words). Tim even brings us a defiantly oddball interpretation of ‘Careless Love’, its phrasing quirky in the extreme yet it works! And finally there's Tim's original songs, strange and individual works that really do recall the magic and enterprise of vintage Incredible String Band creations (sample the gnomic ‘A Tiny Crown’, for instance, or the enigmatic title track). In Every Sound Below, Tim's produced another tremendous, superior and inspirational set that just demands to be heard.”
-- NetRhythms, UK
“A musical magpie, Eriksen picks up the Civil War theme on his second CD, Every Sound Below, with back-to-back renditions of "The Southern Girl's Reply" and "The Cumberland and the Merrimac." Like every track on this soulful collection of mostly traditional tunes, the performances are sparsely arranged. Eriksen recorded the album alone, playing guitar, fiddle and banjo. He's a storyteller at heart, with a distinctive, unvarnished voice, so it isn't surprising that the narrative ballads, including banjo-driven "Omie Wise" and "John Colby's Hymn," leave the deepest impressions.”
-- Washington Post 

“These days, Eriksen's focus is on his second solo CD, Every Sound Below. It's a mix of traditional American tunes and songs that he found at New England yard sales and libraries, and Eriksen's originals, which he describes as "some kind of odd-rock that's based in traditional music, I don't know. I guess it's trying to express some different ideas."

It's his second solo CD, and "I think I understand what I'm doing better," he says. "I'm more present in the singing . . . it feels more natural."

Every Sound Below is an intimate production. It's all Eriksen -- playing guitar, fiddle and banjo and singing, sometimes a cappella, all into one microphone. Eriksen's voice has the weathered feel that brings the necessary earnestness to traditional stuff such as "Friendship," a mix of 19th-century lyrics and a Revolutionary War marching tune, and the necessary chill to country death songs such as "Omie Wise" and "Two

-- Providence Journal

“His mixture of traditional American folk and his personal eclectic form of originals makes his latest release, Every Sound Below, shine its own pre-20th century story telling mixed with a peculiar 21st century resonance.”
-- ESP Magazine, High Point, NC
 “The entire album was recorded "live" with no overdubs, just a single microphone capturing Eriksen's voice, guitar, fiddle and banjo – producing a pure, spare sound that perfectly suits these haunting songs and tunes.”
The Evening Herald, Ireland
“A homegrown win for Appleseed as Eriksen has gone from playing in Cordelia's Dad to playing on ‘Cold Mountain’ soundtrack.  Here, he continues his journey through the world of unexpected fusions powered by his straight as an arrow voice. A hot folk date that blows off fashion and trends, leading with its chin and delivering goods  like you wouldn't believe. The freshest new sound in folk in years . . .”
- Midwest Record Recap
“Few young performers have as clear a vision of the grandeur and just plain weirdness of rural American traditional music as Tim Eriksen. His second solo CD, Every Sound Below, is an antiquarian outing through and through, with all of the music recorded in monophonic with a single microphone, and even the jacket photograph taken with a pinhole camera. Most of the material on the CD is equally vintage, coming from ancient hymnals and songbooks he found poking around New England. The few originals, including the loping, eerie title tune, blend nicely into the period landscape. Years of shape note singing have helped Eriksen’s voice develop into a raw, powerful instrument that he either uses unaccompanied or embellishes with guitar, banjo, or rudimentary fiddle. The overall effect is a starkly beautiful journey well worth taking.”
Dirty Linen
“A purist in the mold of Britain’s Martin Carthy, whose unique intonation he seems to have mastered, Eriksen proves on Every Sound Below that he's an earnest student of traditional musical idioms, an inquisitive social historian and a compelling artist whose intense delivery and clarity of tone set him among the world's finest folk practitioners . . . This is a classic folk recording, an invaluable treasure.”
Toronto Star
“. . . Eriksen’s intense performance style brings an immediacy to traditional fare that drags it into the 21st century . . . For those who like their roots music to actually have roots . . . Eriksen’s lively interpretations will hit the spot.”
All Music Guide
“I was blown away by the opening track, ‘The Stars Their Match’, which had that magical quality where if you closed your eyes you could either be in the back room of a smoky club in Donegal or in the parlor of a mountain cabin in North Carolina. Tim has a guttural earthy voice that is authentic to the bone and drags you into his musical world with this acappella intro . . . This is a fine and important CD that will be a regular in my stereo.”
JigTime International
“Utterly singular is Every Sound Below (3 stars out of 4), the latest from ex-Cordelia’s Dad frontman Tim Eriksen, fresh from the Cold Mountain soundtrack. A wonderful collection of old-time folk obscurities – from Civil War songs to southern shape-note hymns – Eriksen’s voice sounds hewn from oak.”
Uncut (UK)
“This is a collection of American songs that Tim notes are ‘at least partly old” . . . Tim’s performances feel almost directly created from folk tradition. Listening to Eriksen here feels a lot like looking at sepia toned photos of earlier, long vanished eras. His song notes, perversely printed in last to first order add a lot of context and understanding to most of the songs . . . Every Sound Below is as stark as an album can be. The songs and instrumental melodies re the focus of Tim’s performances, not the performer. This is a bold set of American folk songs with the notes shedding serious light on how the folk process has shaped them.”
Sing Out!
“Like the movie [“Cold Mountain”] itself, his voice is a beautiful fiction born from craft and subtle risks. On his second solo album, Every Sound Below, Eriksen brings the same sense of discovery to his banjo, fiddle, guitar, and voice on Civil War ballads, an elegant 19th century Christmas carol, the classic murder ballad ‘Omie Wise,’ and three original songs – including the title track, in which ‘the fairest sounds’ cast memories the way a new moon ‘casts only shadow.’ From Eriksen’s earliest song searches, a serendipitous connection to the ghosts of the past have been as mysterious as they are visceral.
No Depression
“Tim Eriksen mines the heart and soul of traditional Americana on Every Sound Below . . . In keeping with that traditional feel, Eriksen supplies all the instrumentation, switching deftly among guitar, banjo and fiddle without the benefit of overdubs . . . Eriksen’s literary liner notes add an informative element that enhances the listening, even when it comes to the most spartan of these selections . . . It takes the dedication of musicians such as [Alison] Krauss, T-Bone Burnett, and, in this case, Tim Eriksen to bring our past back into the present.”
“Eriksen recently showed off his prowess on guitar, banjo and fiddle on the ‘Cold Mountain’ soundtrack, and Every Sound Below echoes the traditional style that made his contributions to Cold Mountain so powerful . . . Eriksen’s stark, no frills approach makes every song spring to vibrant life, proving again the depth and power of American folk music in its purest form.”
“Eriksen is among the most influential figures in the neo-primitivist movement that is rejuvenating American traditional music. Best known for his haunting music for the film ‘Cold Mountain,’ he helped ignite the string band revival with his darkly quirky Western Mass. group Cordelia’s Dad, and focused fresh attention on 19th-century shape note singing with Northampton Harmony. A former punk-rocker, his musicianship is confidently state-of-the-art, but his intent is never to modernize or gussy up the old music. Instead, he uses savvy arrangement and recording techniques to focus modern ears on what is most raw, earthy, and above all, human in ancient ballads and fiddle  tunes. On his latest CD, Every Sound Below, recorded solo around a single microphone, the sound is wild, beautiful, and full of unexpected moments; at once sweepingly epic and as intimate as a lover's whisper.”
– Scott Alarik, Boston Globe
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