Folk music is no longer what you thought it was. You grandfather’s folk is gone, and so is your father’s folk. What’s left is the folk of your friend’s teenage brother from Nevada City, the folk of your cousin from Portland. It has nothing to do with Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan or the Kingston Trio, and not much to do with Bright Eyes. It doesn’t sound like folk.
Born of simplicity, all folk music offers some connection to the earth, to the deep truths, to the natural order. Timber Timbre (timber-tamber) took its name from a cabin in the woods of Ontario, Canada, so that’s that. In “Black Water,” over a metronomic drum beat and piano chords spaced evenly like a ticking clock, Taylor Kirk sings about just needing some sunshine. A guitar or violin is drenched in enough reverb that you can’t tell which it is. The song fades out to a looped vocal line and a sober solo from a saxophone, of all things.
“Swamp Magic” is an instrumental, cursed by fervent strings and distant booming drums. “Lonesome Hunter” is some deranged doo-wop, the night of the living dead at a prom in the Fifties. Throughout, Kirk’s vocals are doubled up in a tight echo — he’s Chris Isaak and M. Ward singing in harmony from the depths of a dripping cave. And so on. It’s a dark and musty record, like the world inside a tree stump, and that’s what makes it folk — but only in 2011, when you spend your days glued to a shining screen. This isn’t folk, but it’s the same nonetheless. (Arts and Crafts)