A selection of 14 songs from Tim Harrison's early works: "Train Going East," produced by Stan Rogers and engineered by Daniel Lanois, and "In The Barroom Light," produced by David Essig.
"...chunks of twenty-four carat gold in this collection."
Arthur Wood, Folk Roots
Arthur Wood, Folk Roots
"The real joy in album reviewing comes when you find that you can't take the darned creation off the deck. You want to play it for the rest of your life. And just to check that something is really happening, you succumb to playing it one more time. In any one year, this event may never happen. Sometimes, it's like an avalanche. So here we have Canadian, Tim Harrison. A recording artist for two decades, his tally, to date, is a mere quartet of recordings. His credentials are not in doubt, since the late and much missed Stan Rogers produced Harrison's 1979 debut Train Going East, while a [young] Daniel Lanois was the engineer. Performances in many of the major venues and at folk festivals on both sides of the 47th parallel followed the album's appearance. Later, Harrison founded the Summerfolk Music Festival in Owen Sound, Ontario and was, subsequently, the artistic director of numerous other Canadian open air folk music events.
In human terms, life sometimes dictates that we burn them. On other occasions, we experience the call to [re-]build them. Bridges have a multitude of applications. So here's the rub - Tim Harrison's Bridges is a nine track tour-de-force of, sometimes Celtic flavoured, contemporary folk music. The shortest cut lasts over four and a half minutes, while three tracks exceed seven minutes duration. 'Addicted' hardly describes my current state of mind. Excluding the traditional Carrickfergus, Harrison penned the other chunks of twenty-four carat gold in this collection. Haunting life affirmative anthems, for listeners with a mind to reflect and the will to respond, encapsulates the music captured stunningly on this little silver ring. All the way, that is, from 'Not For The Love Of The Money' to 'Vital Spark'.".
Steve Givens, Acoustic Guitar
"Canadian Tim Harrison is a beguiling songwriter who combines eloquent poetry, interesting and percussive guitar playing, and a voice that drips with passion and authenticity. Harrison writes about what he believes and sings with a forcefulness that makes you a believer too. His lyrics, like those of fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn, invite us to make room for the spiritual and mystical in our lives. The addition of whistles and flutes on several cuts gives this CD a Celtic edge, but in the end it is Harrison's searing voice that reaches into the heart and demands to be heard."
Ivan Emke, Dirty Linen
"I've always found Tim Harrison's voice to be full of character. In his past work, his singing has exuded melancholy, nostalgia, hope - whatever the lyric called for. And this, Harrison's fourth solo album, shows that he still has the golden touch (or tonsils, or whatever it is). Harrison is an Ontario-based singer, songwriter and folk festival artistic director. As a songwriter, he writes material that fits his voice - songs of passion and the everyday drama of relationships, roads not taken and regrets. But within the material, there is often at least the glint of hope, as seen in tracks such as "Ship To Come In" or one of his classic numbers, "Down To The River". "Bridges" contains eight original pieces as well as a rendering of "Carrickfergus". Harrison supports his material with good backup musicians, including Dennis Pendrith (bass), Nick Naffin (guitars), Alyssa Wright (cello), and Loretto Reid (whistle, flute
Sing Out!, U.S.
If 1960s-era folk music makes you sigh with contentment, you'll love this album. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. Harrison captures the honesty and great storytelling of that era as well as effectively using simple arrangements of banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin and more to frame his great songs. There are nine originals, plus one cover (Richard Farina's "Pack Up Your Sorrows"), all directly or indirectly related to Grey County, his home in Ontario."Don Quixote's Dream" has light percussion that gives it a Spanish feel, but also features a Dobro that offers a grittier sound. The most moving song on the album is "Canada Gander's Lament". It's said that Canadian geese mate for life and this true story of a gander waiting for his love's return is heartbreaking. He finally flies away in December when the pond they used to share is frozen over. If you don't have a tear in your eye after hearing this one, you're not made of flesh and bone. "Dan's Song" is a true tale about a young man who is found hanging from a tree, dead by his own hand. Found in drag, he was not accepted in this town where "there were churches built all around the square". The last cut, "Grey County Winter", features a beautifully finger-picked guitar. It sounds like it's in a dropped D tuning, with that low string providing a nice drone under the poetic lyrics.
Don't worry about getting those old Ian and Sylvia LPs transferred to CD. Just put on this album. I guarantee it'll fit the bill".
Dirty Linen, U.S.
Reflections on the life, landscapes, memories, and characters of Grey County, Ontario, Canada, form the subjects of Tim Harrison's music on this disc. These reflections are both poetic and pragmatic, lyrical and straightforward, as befits a man who's had a long history in one place, moving from childhood to adult status. He's got a fine, melodic voice and an ear for the right music to support his songwriting imagery.
Roots Music Report, Texas
This folk singer and songwriter is a master of his craft. Storytelling by music simplifies the feel of this album. Believable moving tales of life accompanied by beautiful music and vocals that are haunting and truthful. Canada is crowded with talented musicians and song- writers and Tim Harrison is one of the best. What a treasure this new music is - 5 star.
Eric Thom, Exclaim Magazine, Canada
This is an intrusive effort Harrison's 8th release. Giving it a good listen, I left it alone for awhile. Upon returning to it, the opening notes of the rapturous "Don Quixote's Dream" sent a shiver down my spine, my measuring stick for great music. This song, in particular, is haunting echoing the tired perspective of Cervantes' key figure as he gathers strength from his friend and servant, Sancho Panza. Despite Grey County's (named for the place, not the mood) dark sentiments, Harrison probes the positive through his choice of subject matter and lyric. Yet it is the rich tapestry of instrumental backdrop to each of his works that provides the true sparkle of sunshine, like well-defined rays breaking through the clouds to reassure the most disheartened of listeners. Enter the banjo, an effective new tool in Harrison¹s arsenal, adding even more texture to an already colourful style. "Your Love Brings Me Around" is a case-in-point, its bluegrass leanings adding a smile to its happy ending. "We Believed" another shiver-inducing tour- de-force, recalls Lightfoot at his most uplifting its chorus hitting its mark. Likewise, "Dan's Song" transfixes the listener with a sad tale of intolerance in epic proportions. Of special note is the pick-me-up power of the contagious "Pack Up Your Sorrows", a Richard Farina song and the only non-original on the 10-song collection. The combined guitar work of Paul Mills and Harrison is exemplary. Harrison has again succeeded in creating a record that demonstrates his commanding warmth and significant presence over his material and, in so doing, he carries a proud torch that celebrates a sense of place as it underlines our common lineage.
"Ballads at their best"
Les Siemieniuk, Penguin Eggs
Rich Warren, Sing Out!
"Since the title of this CD refers to a Van Gogh painting, reproduced with permission as the cover and centerfold of the booklet on this CD, one might consider this Tim Harrison's masterpiece. Of the 14 songs, half are new compositions and half reprised from Harrison's discontinued CD, The Stars Above . However, even those have been given new arrangements and re-recorded. Ten songs are Harrison originals. The impeccable, crisp, simple production keeps the sound consistently interesting and appealing to the ear. Harrison sings with a voice that knows where it's going, and plays guitar, mandolin and bass. He receives occasional support from Paul Mills' guitar and Chris Whiteley's harmonica. Like Van Gogh's paintings, Harrison paints with deep colors and palpable textures. The moods tend more toward dark than light. The title song pays homage to the painter and a bit more. "Home Boys" tells of the young boys born in desperate poverty deported from England to near slave jobs overseas, such as in this case, Canada. "Innocent Eyes", with a slightly Latin sound, walks the razor edge of trust versus danger, while "The Parting Letter to Ophelia" came about after Harrison re-read "Hamlet". "Fortune and Men's Eyes" stemmed from the bard, Edgar Allen Poe, and a personal experience. Harrison covers the Judy Collins/Dave Van Ronk setting of the W.B. Yeats poem, "Song of the Wandering Aengus". He also covers Phil Ochs' "There But For Fortune" in a probing, revealing interpretation that to my ear surpasses Ochs' own version. Harrison sings his setting of John Masefield's poem, "Sea-fever". Perhaps the one happy song on the CD is "Joy Alright" that offers hope amid the perils of life. I've watched him develop from a songwriter and performer in the crowd to a true stand-out!"
Michael Parrish, Dirty Linen
"Wheatfield With Crows, Canadian singer-songwriter Tim Harrison's seventh release, is a stirring collection of original story songs sung with gusto. The disc combines seven new songs with seven that Harrison previously recorded on the out-of-print The Stars Above. Harrison draws broadly from the arts for inspiration, with songs sparked by Shakespeare, Poe, and the title tune's Van Gogh's painting. In addition to a dozen originals, the disc also includes a stirring version of Phil Ochs' "There But For Fortune and a version of the Yeats poem, "Wandering Aengus" as set to music by Judy Collins".
Greg Quill, Toronto Star
"Seven new originals and seven salvaged from a now discontinued CD and reconstituted, make up the new collection by veteran singer-songwriter Harrison, who's in fine voice on this album. It is perhaps his most complete and confident to date.
Still very much informed by the British Isles folk balladry, union songs and the style of the great narrative poets of the 1930s through 1950s, Harrison reveals more of himself this time around, even while he's working in the grand tradition, as in "Home Boys", an anochronistic tale of the suffering of impoverished British children, the jetsam of the Industrial Revolution, sent to work more or less as indentured slaves on Canadian farms in the early decades of the 20th century. Accompaniment by guitarist Paul Mills, Celtic harpist Sahra Featherstone, Chris Whiteley on harmonica, is sparse, assured, tasteful, allowing Harrison's fine voice and work on guitar and mandolin all the room they need."
Les Siemieniuk, Penguin Eggs
"One of my favourite books when I was in university was The Magus by John Fowles. Lo and behold, Fowles later rewrote parts of it. Mostly he changed the ending with a conclusion that came from maturity. It was an interesting and satisfying exercise for both the autor and the reader.
Tim Harrison is sort of doing the same thing. Seven of the songs on the new Wheatfield With Crows come from the now discontinued The Stars Above (1995). He has re-recorded them with new arrangements, and seasoned arrangements - the works of an older and more experienced musician. He has done a wonderful job and his fans will appreciate the new renditions.
But the highlight and strength of the album are seven new songs. Two of them are poems - W.B. Yeats' The Song of Wandering Aengus and John Masefield's Sea-fever - wonderfully set to music. Gently helped by guitar, mandolin and harmonica, Harrison sings the words in fine style. They'd both be impressed in how he captured the essence of their works.
Home Boys mines a bit of, probably obscure, Canadian history - the shipping of the sons and daughters of the destitute in England to Canada for employment as farm laborers.
As ever, Tim's voice is in great form and his handling of the arrangements, deft and lovely. Ballads at their best.
"...you will remember everyone you ever loved, and love more the ones still alive."
Moshe Benarroch, FAME & Amazon.com
Arthur Wood, Folkwax
Phil Ochs' prophetic "When I'm Gone," is the only cover on this nine-song set by one of Canada's acoustic folk music giants. In fact, the melancholic quality of Ochs' 30-year-old words are mirrored in much of the material featured here. Early in the opening title cut "A love was lost on a starry night," but the song ends with the positive, forward-looking perspective, "A new day comes with the morning sun/ New paths she's never known." The subject of departing this earthly plane underpins the "This Song's For You (Hugh's Song)," and the CD liner bears the dedication "For Dad and Hughie."
The listener is allowed to deduce that Hugh was a high-spirited character and the narrator speculates that he carried that trait with him to the next plane: "I bet you rocked Charon's boat." (Charon, in case you needed to know, is the boatman on the River Styx from Greek mythology.) Prince Edward Island is the setting for "Ghosts On PEI," a water-locked location where claims of sighting ghosts is somewhat legendary.
While the opening lines of "One Woman" acknowledge that all women are different, the narrator yearns for the spirited one woman who was once the love of his life. Until, that is, she succumbed to that urge for going. It's obvious from the song title that "Gonna Ride That Train" is another song about moving on, in this instance, in search of gainful employment.
The lyric of the closing cut, "Prayer Watching," could be interpreted in these troubled times as a hymn of hope for better times in all our lives. Released in the early months of 2001, Sara And The Sea more than maintains the high standard set by Harrison's comeback recordings of the late '90s.
Canada's Folk, Roots and World Music Magazine
It's the backbone of folk music - a boy or girl and their guitar. There are a lot of good ones around and Tim Harrison, one of old reliables who has played the folk circuit for many years, is still one of the best. In addition to all his work artistically directing a myriad of Ontario festivals, he's always kept up the songwriting and performing. He seems to be having a creative renaissance in the last few years. Harrison put out his first album in 1979, then one in 1985, but now he has put out four recordings in the last six years.Sara And The Sea is the latest. And you get exactly what you have come to expect from Harrison - songs sung from the heart and with passion. A great songwriter and even better singer, he puts his all into every word and transports you from the shoreline of the sea, in the title track, where a woman wanders the beach pondering the loss of a loved one.Sara And The Sea is populated with people facing the realities of life in Canada these days - relocating for a chance at a better life (Gonna ride that Train) to the human melancholy of lost loves in a stunning ballad Ghosts On PEI.Tim Harrison's Sara And The Sea exceeds the standards he has set in his other recordings and is a joy to listen to.
Independent Songwriter Web Magazine
It's hard to get an album that's better produced than one made by Tim Harrison. It is an auditory treat that tingles as it works its way through the ear canal. Shudder. His voice is a cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Jack Williams. The music is powerful and moving, yet has the soft touch of a feather as it sweeps the crevices of the mind. Surreal ecstasy.
Wayne Bergerson, "Fretz"
KVSC-FM St. Cloud, MN
Harrison has scored another winner. I wanted to drop a short note to let you know that I recieved the two Tim Harrison cds and have enjoyed more than an announcer should reviewing them. Reviewing cds is supposed to be work but not when there is good music like that found on Sara And The Sea. Tim Shows a sincerity that really rings a bell with me, and the songs themselves speak of people and stories that I think everyone can understand or relate to. The Self Titled cd has a different feel and sound, which adds to the understanding of Tim as an artist and not just a performer of songs.
Anyway just wanted to say thanks for adding KVSC and the Fretz program to your list.
"Harrison is one of the finest folk lyricists in Canada today."
Bob MacKenzie, Sound Bytes
Stephen Flood, Ottawa XPress
The idea of the singer-songwriter as poet is one that has divided critics and musicians alike. While few would argue Leonard Cohen's claim on the mantle, citing someone like Patti Smith amongst the noble ranks would no doubt raise a few hackles.
Toronto-based singer-songwriter Tim Harrison, while caught a little off guard by my direct query on the issue as it applies to him, may have come up with a simple and definitive take on exactly where to draw the line.
"If being a poet means to be part of a tradition in which every aspect of your life is expressed through the wonder of words, then I certainly consider myself one now, at this point in my career", muses Harrison. "Because as I've moved along my songs have taken on dimensions of spirituality, affairs of the personal heart and political concerns. These, to me, are things that round out the human experience."
The point in his career Harrison is referring to, finds the consummate wordsmith with six releases as a leader under his belt. Equal parts philosopher and motivator, Harrison is also a wizard on the guitar, both in the traditional style of playing and in the often sadly underused flat-picking style most prominent in early country blues recordings.
I used to go to Mariposa (Folk Festival) during its earliest incarnations, and I would see Ramblin' Jack Elliott play", Harrison recalls excitedly. "He had this really great rythmic style of playing that gave me the fever to learn. Finger-picking was something I also developed to give my music a more diverse sound, and the influences on that learning were more general. But nobody has moved me as much as Ramblin' Jack".
A further profound talent of Harrison's is his ability to mesmerize audiences with intricate storytelling, a talent he claims he came by almost without choice or volition.
"I always wondered why I was compelled to tell stories between songs, with some of them being very long and involved", says Harrison. "Then once, about 10 years ago, I went on a short trip with my dad and he told stories for three days straight, something he'd never done once around the house when I was growing up. But in speaking with friends of his that were surprised I didn't know of this side of my father, I realized I'd picked it up by osmosis. And I'm glad, because I've always believed in making conscious efforts to keep cultures alive and to me, storytelling is one of the most important of all".
Geoff Hays, Toronto.Com
"Harrison is a wizard with words, wringing poetry from our everyday struggles and making those subtle shifts in imagery that make a great songwriter. Harrison has the all-too-rare ability to reach inside and body forth lyrics that are from the heart and real. The true heritage of folk music - alive not archival. Reminiscent of greats such as Dylan, Springsteen, Marley, you can't help but hear Harrison out."
Kevin McCarthy, Celtic/Folk Music Review
"The good news is that Tim Harrison is back with a new release. The even better news is that he has returned with an assortment of laser-like portraits of the innerscapes of human beings. His insights into the human condition, our heavenly ascents and our hellish descents, are as remarkable as is his talent for putting them into enjoyable song."