He gazes out from dark eyes buried within sunken, shaded sockets, his translucent flesh turned white by moonlight. Emerging from the viscous water of the bayou, he’s draped in coarse gray rags, wearing accessories of alligators’ teeth and nothing but swamp grime in his hair. The skeletal man is no man at all, but a ghost tormented in the Louisiana wetlands. A bony finger wrapped rigidly over his collar, he moans “All I need is some sunshine/ All I nee-ee-ee-ee-ee-eeed …” before vanishing back beneath the shimmering surface at the hand of his voodoo queen.
If you’ve never seen a picture of Taylor Kirk, then this is the Taylor Kirk you know. The lead singer of folk trio Timber Timbre actually looks more like a clean-cut kid from the country but we all know that at the heart of this Canadian crooner lies a southern spectre beat down with the blues.
He didn’t begin that way, but his lyrics hint he’s always been headed there. In “Cedar Shakes,” Timber Timbre’s first album, he was a country boy in a cabin, haunted, halfway between here and the netherworld. The sounds of spooks in the air loomed over guitar plucks and harmonica as though something from beyond could sense his morbidity. Those spirits began to possess his soul on the follow-up, “Medicinals,” and swept him away to the swamp by the time the band’s self-titled third album emerged. Now, on “Creep On Creepin’ On,” he’s settled into his fate, a soul forever cursed.
Kirk’s gluey voice is thicker than ever, sticking to each word from start to finish. The album’s three instrumental tracks fit well among the rest, but it’s the songs where Kirk broods over piano, guitar, horns and bass that make Timber Timbre so hard to resist. Every Timber Timbre song with vocals is the best Timber Timbre song ever.
The band’s musical style is cinematic. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if “Creep on Creepin’ On” worked as a “Dark Side of the Rainbow” situation with an old silent film like “Nosferatu.” As October looms ahead, there’s really no better time to queue up this record. The background shrieks and howls in “Too Old to Die Young,” not to mention the haunted imagery of “Bad Ritual,” make it ideal for Halloween time.
But we all know what this is really about. While Kirk rattles chains down a dark hallway, shrouded in a sheet and moaning, all you have to do is switch on the lights to reveal he’s just another sentimental man looking for love. Hiding behind the corpse of Buddy Holly, he pleads, “Please break this spell you have me under,” on “Lonesome Hunter.” He resurrects some old doo-wop enchantments for “Woman,” where he asks plainly, “Why aren’t you moving with me yet?”
Withering under a voodoo spell or not, Kirk’s still got a lot going for him. He may have to bargain with women, “For a moment, can I just pretend you’re mine?” as in the bluesy penultimate track “Do I Have Power,” but he doesn’t have to make any bargains at all to make his records sell. They sell themselves. You should know. You’re about to buy one. And I didn’t even have to use magic.