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Review: Tim Grimm, 'Wilderness Songs...'

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Tim Grimm
Wilderness Songs and Bad Man Ballads

Part compilation album, part new material, Tim Grimm’s new album Wilderness Songs and Bad Man Ballads invites you in with his warm, conversational, roughly gorgeous voice. He keeps you listening because the songs richly describe the details of the characters that live in those songs.

The Indiana Americana singer/songwriter calls on friends Krista Detor, Jason Wilber, Bobbie Lancaster, The White Lightning Boys (for some scampering bluegrass) and wife Jan Lucas to lend texture and vocal beauty to the record.

The songs, based on the writings of his friend, Scott Russell Sanders, become a showcase for the storyteller, sharing his ability to pair his words with music that lopes, twists, twangs and is full of mystery. The people in many of these stories are from another time but their messages are true today; individuals struggling with personal demons and lives that are dealt a raw deal, yet still harboring hope.

The gentle guitar and Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad vibe of “Fruit” and the Carter Family echo of “Frostbite of the Soul” were originally released on 2007’s Wilderness Plots, while “Rebecca Versailles” and her children crossing the Mason/Dixon line and “Squaw” are from Grimm’s 2008 release Holding Up the World.

Of the new songs, the best are “Cover These Bones” - with Bobbie Lancaster sharing haunting and brooding vocals - and the lead track, “China”, s one of two with Grimm’s son Conner on bass. The elder Grimm sings of taking to the Ohio River, seeking redemption and hope, and feeling desperation.

Tim Grimm’s given us the finest single album he’s ever released. And there is no one better that Grimm when writing music that is about Indiana, and about life. It may, compilation or not, be the best roots album of 2011.

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