A fresh take on the murder ballad

After listening to his music, you might be forgiven for forming warped assumptions about Timber Timbre frontman Taylor Kirk.

After listening to his music, you might be forgiven for forming warped assumptions about Timber Timbre frontman Taylor Kirk.

Based on his lyrics, you might imagine some sort of recluse, holed up in a secluded cabin, holding seances and playing with his Ouija board.

And based on the music, that cabin – which is probably on the edge of a swamp – is cluttered with strange musical instruments and stacked floor to ceiling with obscure 78 rpm records.

But that assumption isn’t true – not completely anyway.

“It certainly doesn’t reflect my general outlook on life or anything,” Kirk said last week, when asked about his particular brand of Gothic indie folk.

“People are always disappointed and kind of surprised at what a boring, regular, goofy guy I am.”

The dark mood of the songs came out of a very difficult period in Kirk’s personal life.

Once he started writing and performing these songs, he realized how cathartic music could be.

“It felt good to exploit that type of mood, that type of vibe on stage,” he said.

“It helped me offset the vulnerability I felt, dealing with personal things.”

Although a regular, goofy sort of guy, Kirk did start Timber Timbre in a secluded cabin.

Kirk recorded his first Timber Timbre album while working for some family friends in Northern Ontario, near Bobcaygeon.

“They had this big old timber frame building. I made these recordings there in my spare time,” said Kirk.

“I was literally banging on the walls and floors and stuff. They had an old banjo, shakers … basically just kids toys that had been left behind.”

The resulting album, Cedar Shakes, was released independently and is a bit hard to find, but well worth a listen.

Filled with harmonica, hand-clap and foot-stomp percussion, guitar and oddly endearing vocals – the low budget solo project sounds like a group of friends at an all night jam.

The project was born out of Kirk’s newfound love for folk music.

A friend had lent him The Anthology of American Folk Music – a six-disk compilation compiled by Harry Everett Smith and released by the Smithsonian Institute.

The anthology, originally released in 1952, was a collection of obscure releases issued between 1927 and 1935.

The music was broad in scope – from country blues to Cajun social music to Appalachian murder ballads.

After a few listens to Timber Timbre – especially the recently released Creep On Creepin’ On – it’s easy to see that Kirk identified more with those murder ballads then anything else.

But this is the murder ballad as imagined by Roger Corman or George A. Romero.

In Lonesome Hunter, Kirk sings: “Well, I’m standing holding my head / And I’m staring through a hole in your head / And I been feeling like a zombie baby / I am a zombie coming slow to your bed.”

The accompanying music also has B-movie qualities.

Though definitely influenced by early folk and blues, much of the album sounds as if it were composed by Italian film score legend Ennio Morricone.

That cinematic element, especially in the few instrumental tracks, is something that Kirk has long been cultivating.

“I’ve always been really interested in a few particular filmmakers and the way that they use music,” he said.

“In fact, when I was in college I though that, if I were to have a career in music, it would be in making music for film.

“I never imagined I’d be in a rock band.”

But Kirk has had to put his film score aspirations aside for now.

Since signing with Toronto-based indie label Arts & Crafts, Timber Timbre has been steadily growing in success.

The 2009, self-titled album was long listed for the Polaris Prize and led to a busy touring schedule with Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi and the Low Anthem.

And 2011’s Creep On Creepin’ On has been receiving rave reviews.

But even though Kirk is now very much part of a “rock band,” don’t expect a standard rock show.

Timber Timbre will be coming to the territory this weekend, playing the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson on Friday and the arts centre in Whitehorse on Sunday.

Yukoners can expect to see a lot of multi-tasking from the group, which has expanded to a three-piece band.

Kirk sings while also playing guitar and foot percussion.

Mika Posen is doing some percussion as well, along with synthesizers and violin.

And Simon Trottier has another bag of tricks – specializing in lap steel guitar, percussion and sampling.

Yeah, sampling – sometimes of B movie screams.

“It’s very electronic,” said Kirk.

“But the approach is still deeply rooted in folk music.”

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read