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

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read