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Tim Eriksen is the best folk singer you’ve never heard of. By “folk singer,” I don’t mean “affable white person with an acoustic guitar,” but rather ”an interpreter of old and ownerless music.” Tim focuses mostly on traditional songs from Appalachia and New England, but he also sprinkles in punk rock, Bosnian pop, and some South Indian classical as well. In addition to singing, he plays guitar, banjo, fiddle, and most recently, a Mexican twelve-string guitar variant called the bajo sexto. His approach to these instruments is spare, verging on skeletal, lots of open fifths with occasional dissonant crunches, and I find it to be a bottomless source of inspiration.

Much as I love Tim, I can understand why he doesn’t have a larger following. He came to my attention in a band called Cordelia’s Dad, which is both an acoustic folk/roots band and an electric punk rock band that plays skullcrushingly loud versions of folk/roots songs. There’s a Venn diagram overlap between the audience for both sides of the band, but it’s not large. Tim has also participated in a bewilderingly eclectic range of side projects from contemporary classical  to Latin jazz .

Most of Tim’s repertoire deals with murder, industrial disasters, ships sinking, or miscellaneous failure and despair, making it not very lullaby-appropriate. “A Thousand Times Adieu” is sad too, but it’s a more gentle and wistful kind of sad, and the melody is a beauty. My wife also adores Tim, and she agrees that this is a lovely tune, but she finds it too depressing to sing. (She feels the same way about Willie Nelson’s recording of “I’d Have To Be Crazy.”) To me, though, sadness doesn’t necessarily disqualify a song as a lullaby. I mean, people sing “You Are My Sunshine” to kids all the time, and that’s one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. 

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About the Curator - Ethan Hein

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab , Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza . In collaboration with Soundfly, he has developed a series of online music theory courses . He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog , and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.

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