Article submitted courtesy of Vahn Hickey.
The Streit brothers have been making music since they were toddlers and can play just about anything with strings on it (and plenty of other stuff). While Tim is a few years Kyle’s junior, his musical output is certainly on par with his older brother. Together, with a few other brilliant Midwesterners, they form the folk-country-alternative-rock band Bad Saddles. Solo, Tim’s songs draw upon the likes of singer/songwriters such as John Sebastian (The Loving Spoonful), John Prine, and Neil Young, just to name a few. He seems to almost effortlessly take over where many of these luminaries left off. With the release of his second solo album, Timbuktu, Tim’s blue-collar, Midwestern tales are as strong and relatable as ever. – Dan Jarvis
As the treads of my balding tires dig into miles of frozen Midwestern highway, a blizzard whips across the tundra of the south suburban farmland forcing my vehicle to gently sway to the infectiously toe-tapping bass line of “Sweet Anne Marie”. It coalesces intrinsically with mandolin melodies that dance about. Soon young Tim Streit begins to confess his affinity for a fräulein so fair that she whisks him away to a whimsical land of exotic intoxicating flavors of a woman who feels like… …no… …who tastes like home. One not unlike those that dwell in tales of candy forests sung of by Tim’s forebears in the ancestral folk songs of the fatherland, no doubt.
That being said, an elucidation upon the Germanic origin of the Streit name seems consequential whenever interpreting either Tim or his brother Kyle’s musical craftsmanship. The relevancy being, that it directly translates to “fight” or controversy. Now in no way am I alluding toward either brüder serving as a catalyst for dissension or citing discord between them despite your standard sibling quarrels. No, my mind delineates the profusely succinct fact that the only reason to fight is to survive, to uphold your right to die with dignity, and live honorably. Which both Timothy and his hermano pull off quite well. This brings us to the reverb laden introduction of, “Title My Name”, a song drenched in the universally iconoclastic journey toward self-discovery we all must face when living in a society where a job title or career choice is to be our definitive role amidst this existence.
Just the thought of bearing the misnomer of journalist or even critic causes me to quake in disgust, fairing far better with the title of philosopher or heretic as opposed to an occupation denominating who I am. Therefore, as Tim rattles off the innumerable opportunities that await each of our efforts we’re also reminded that a change in pace can always be viewed as a necessary means to an end. Also, be damn sure the forces at work in the universe will always crack a window whenever the asshole you’ve been busting your hump for, for the last decade decides to arbitrarily shut the door without remorse. Because although life sometimes seems like a cathartic march up a narrow Native American trail too muddied to traverse (or perhaps in my case a snow-blind jaunt down an icy scenic route) its songs such as this that remind us that the test of a true songwriter’s ability to reach his or her listener is their uncanny capacity to empathize with the spectrum of emotions endured by each and every one of us. Which in this particular instance Tim reminds us that its the getting up and dusting off that makes life interesting enough to share with an audience in the first place.
Speaking of, ‘dusting off’, the next ditty we’re beguiled with, John Sebastian’s “Rainbows All Over Yours Blues”, harkens back to an era wrought with a prolific paragon of songwriters (a mistral of minstrels if you will). So much so, that to remain a prominent act in the public eye meant competing with the likes of an actual arsenal of of hit machines such as Barry Gordy’s Funk Brothers over at Motown or the consistent output from Memphis’ Stax label. Not to mention, contending with annual offerings from contemporaries such as Dylan, Brian Wilson, & The Beatles. You also must factor in the remainder of the British invasion and the now flourishing psychedelic sound that seemed almost omnipresent at that point in time. Henceforth, its no wonder that a folk hero like John Sebastian who’d been blowing harp on infamous recordings since the burgeoning of the Greenwich Village scene gets tragically overlooked all too often. Sebastian having penned a plethora of top-ten gems including the one therein Tim’s repertoire, chose to debut the song in question by painting rainbows all over the blues of nearly 500,000 soggy and subsequently somber occupants of an alfalfa field turned disaster area.
During his impromptu intermission performance at this million dollar bash up in Bethel, NY he’s remembered as a voice of reason in a sea of lost souls restless with discontent despite their collective minds standing on the verge of getting it on. Being quoted with remarks such as “Just love everyone all around you and clean up a little garbage on your way out and everything is gonna be alright” or “A cloth house is all you need if you got love” its no wonder that he’s still regarded as a father figure to his generation of revolutionary minded peers. Considering the circumstances, I’d say its due to John’s playful banter that gave no cause for alarm to a sea of hallucinogenically charged psyches.
Bearing tidings of irrefutable goodness seems to be the underlying tone of this record as we move onto the next track where Tim reminds us that the ancient art of boogie-ing yer blues away is still a relevant way to resist the negative vibrations that cause dissonance throughout our lives. As the song illustrates, we’re all susceptible to life’s inevitable pains. In this case, Tim is reminded by the endearing words of his brother that no matter the caliber or quantity of unsavoriness you may be enduring you’re always privileged to wallow a while but, remember happiness is only a “Fuck It.” away.
Unfortunately, we can only diminish the amount of fucks given to the extent that it doesn’t cripple us financially. Which in turn would essentially prevent us from attaining our modest dreams of weathering the storm and coming to port or bringing our delusions of grandeur to fruition, (like surviving this brutal winter’s worst).
Whilst contemporaneously suffering through our current socio-economic & political climates’ rampant corruption fueled mismanagement there’s no sooner an ounce of security left in the so-called American dream than there is a lick of trust left in the hearts of those who once fearlessly dared to dream it. At least that’s the moral I derive from my interpretation of, “Put It In A Dream”. A song that tackles a coeval quandary by illuminating an aperture of optimism at the coda of a forlorn tunnel of broken spirits otherwise mired by fiscal woe.
As the sanguine side of this LP comes to a close with, “Nothing You Can Do”, we must acknowledge that all our tribulations no matter how trivial or dire they may be, must be viewed as objectively as they can through rose colored glasses. If only just so we can make it a little further down this winding river that may someday lead us home or at least to the shores that render our souls content with a trove of memories of the ones we’ve loved and lost on the way. Just as life has a balance so must everything that resides therein.
Almost in direct juxtaposition of the buoyancy of the first side, the latter half of this album has a rather earnest tone chalked full of even more candor than the former. So when the needle drops on side two we’re greeted with a rendition of a solemn song initially recorded by Dr. Hook, whose ghostwriter is otherwise recognized as a jovial children’s poet, Mr. Shel Silverstein. Yet another widely under appreciated songwriter whose lyrics’ honesty console whomever has had, “A Couple More Years” on their lover and consequently felt a little wiser due to said accelerated experience.
On the contrary, there’s always a few instances in which love leaves us a little more jaded and in “Left My Heart In Galena” Tim bares his soul about an actual incident in which his former lover takes a road trip with him even though she’s been seeing someone else for a hot minute. This song resonates as a crucial turning point in this man’s life. The occurrence itself is one that brings about a coming of age in a man in which its futile to even examine what you could’ve done to prevent the inevitable.
Its escapades such as this that procure songs with disheartening messages like “Dark Hollow”. An old folk tune by Bill Browning that narrates the ache that’s brought on by just seeing a woman or even the agony bestowed on the brain by just having the one that got away on your mind. Despite the lugubrious context of the sobering realities sung of on the B-side, Tim still retains his underlying sense of humor that’s reminiscent of the local heroes that helped shape his outlook on love and life. In fact there’s no finer candidate to carry that torch than Tim, if you ask me.
A storyteller who’s certainly come into his own throughout this era of his life and this album is more than substantial proof of that.
Namely it’s “1987” that’s a benchmark in Tim’s musical career. An endearing tale documenting the hardships endured by he and his family from the time he was born. Set to the backdrop of a subtle finger picked melody, Tim gives a firm nod to his folks for toughing it out without ever thinking twice and his siblings for never doubting him no matter the stakes at hand. Not sure about you, but I find it few and far between that I hear genuine gratitude expressed through song for those that have nurtured and shaped it’s author. Although a scarce trait even among honest men, it’s attributes such as this that bare resemblance to the humble nature of this man’s idols.
The last track that graces our ears is a definitive celebration of Tim’s accumulative off-kilter mild mannerisms. A no nonsense visit to the other side of making music. An underlying yet overlooked aspect of why we’re inspired to create art that we can only hope inspires others to go and do likewise. Like all musicians Tim was a listener long before he was a player or a picker and in “My Song” he elucidates laconically how imperative it is for spectators to get in the game. Tim departs with an ingenuous decree that his audience find that niche that helps them fervently explore themselves and consequently express in all sincerity how the brutal realities that are actualized in our everyday lives have taken their toll on our collective souls.
More than anything its clear that Tim’s probity is scarcely overshadowed by his ardent affinity for music and his apparent wish that everyone could share in the indescribable pleasure it brings him to write a song that will carry its own meaning in each of our hearts someday. I think if he had his way he’d have hit the dusty trail with only his thoughts and some strings to strum while he roamed the countryside as a troubadour preaching the righteousness that music has to offer and how it remains paramount above all other facets of life. He truly is an authentic representative of how essential music is to our vitality.