It certainly must be slightly taxing on one’s self-esteem to spend all day promoting and puffing up someone else’s work while slightly unsure of your own work in the same field which you keep rather quiet about. This is only an assumption that I had while listening to st. timmy the eponymous and rather virtuous debut record from Chicago singer/songwriter Tim Kolleth and multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Septoski. You see Kolleth’s day job is as head of radio promotion for the legendary Chicago blues label Alligator Records. And though he’s spent years promoting the work of other musicians, Kolleth has remained silent about his own project until now.
The genesis of st. timmy was when Kolleth brought his rough one-take demos to Septoski who then helped to flesh out the heartfelt beauty and simplicity of these songs adding guitars, bass, organ, mandolin, lap steel and baritone ukulele to Kolleth’s somber acoustic melodies and vocals.
We get a sense of Kolleth’s influences which he cites in the liner notes as being “the sadness of Jason Molina” the “earnest lyrics of Uncle Tupelo-era Farrar/Tweedy” and “the poetic economy of Kris Kristofferson.” As I listened I got a sense of all those influences but there’s no denying the slight inflection of a young Bob Dylan which is audible right away on the religiously themed opener “Prayin Kind.” It’s not just the bit of Midwestern twang in the vocals but also the way that Kolleth tells stories in his lyrics, often with moments of stabbing wit like when he laments an early encounter with the life of Jesus “I wonder if I’d a chose his road / would I be the one dying for the sinners / or the one gambling for his robe?”
Yet not all of st. timmy is mired in religious reflections that take on such seriousness. Take the slow and watery alt country ballad If “You Ever Want To Be Unfaithful,” full of tongue and cheek references to both religious faith as well as the faithfulness of relationships. Here also it should be noted Septoski’s mildly ribald organ and guitar work provide the perfect musical backdrop to Kolleth’s droll musings on love and life. Likewise “Open Door” and “Pretty Good Find” combines Kolleth’s raw emotion with Septoski’s well-honed style which gives st. timmy its yin and yang of rough yet polished songs.
Hopefully the final track of st. timmy “This Is Where We Say Goodbye” a somber yet psychedelic rocker on which both musicians seem to pour everything into isn’t some sort of veiled prophecy meaning that st. timmy is a one and done effort. I for one would welcome a second coming of st. timmy.
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