Thursday, June 2, 2016

Talking About Music is Like Dancing About Poetry: A Review of Tim Grimm

In my efforts to go native (and, also, because it's my job), I've begun to research local musicians that are from these hills and hollers. Pretty immediately, I came across the music of Tim Grimm, and oh, what a wonderful soundtrack to the montage of my first couple of months here.

There's something so lovely about discovering a poet, or a writer, or a musician who creates works that resonate with you. It's like they've given voice to thoughts and feelings you didn't know you had, and have expressed them so beautifully that you feel that if only you could meet them, you would be BFFs or at the very least, kindred spirits. In his album Farm Songs, I feel like I've not only met a kindred spirit, but in fact possibly a secret twin brother that perhaps my Dearly Departed Dead Mom spirited away at birth. 

This hunch grew when I heard the first lyrics from his song "Too Hard Drivin'":

"I just pulled in, three days on the road
a road trip with my three year old
between the land of hearts and the city of angels
so may angels have fallen down
they walk around with broken crowns
they stumble on the trembling ground
and have trouble breathing..."

Hell, he pretty much narrated my life over the last couple of months. And continues to do so through the whole song, as he reflects on the pointlessness of a Hollywood life and the joy of settling down on an Indiana farm. SRSLY WHAT IS THIS EVEN. It's like he's in my head!!!! 

The rest of the album is just as exquisite; it's a solemn, dignified contemplation of folks and family, their commitment to each other and the land, the hard work and love and loss that goes in and comes out of the soil with each season. 

"Heart of the Winter" does touch, delicately, on the seasons (one of my favorite aspects of this beautiful home of mine), but the focus on winter here seems to reveal a pretty solid vein of angst running through the song, which seems to be a result of modern day anxieties conflicting with the more traditional ebb and flow of a farming life. 

"Just like my father and his father before
Who oftentimes told me you reap what you sow
I wish someone would tell me why life feels like a race
I know my granddaddy just cared for this place
He lived with a purpose, he lived by his hands
In this world that keeps changing, tell me what makes a man?"

"People's Highway": Lest you think that these songs only relate to us Hoosier-folk, I beg you, listen to this piece. It's a tribute to The Grapes of Wrath, I think, and who can't have a visceral reaction the heartbreak of displaced farmers, torn from their homes, wanting no charity, only dignity, respect, and a bit of land

"We don't want your handouts mister
We don't want no charity
We want work and stay together
Pick the fruit...Land of the free..."

In "80 Acres", he practically goes through the entire 150-year-history of his family's farm, from its founding to its enduring of the Great Depression to its current owners, and rather than being a boring so-and-so begat this and inherited that recitation, it's a sweet tale about a family who have names and take pride in their work and how the farm endures from one generation to the other.

"And I don't pretend to own it, but this paper says it's mine
And this farm is a long memory of walking back in time
and through the generations whose hopes were not in vain
to live a life in harmony well I hope to do the same.
With history in our favor, we've set out on a course
the ghost of Bailey Needham is a gentle guiding force
Although what we do and how we live 
might seem against the grain
freedom is finding beauty in the simple and the plain."

If I had to compare Grimm to anyone, I'd say that he tells stories through his songs as beautifully as Dar Williams. There's honesty in these songs, and sentimentality that somehow manages not to be treacly. There's imagery, and quiet pride, and I think I may have made Tim Grimm the Poet Laureate of Indiana. Is there such a thing? There is now. At least in this virtual Indiana space.

Completely apart from his beautiful music, Grimm has given me something else: words to explain why I abandoned my home, my job, and my marriage in California. Apparently Grimm lived out in Hollywood for many years, working on various tv shows, and then, finally, recovered his good sense and moved home to Indiana to pursue "a life of significance rather than success." Significance rather than success--it's the first time I've really been able to put my Indiana life into words. 

Yup. Long-lost twin brother. 

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