Tim & Kate’s “The More That I Am Old”

“Tim & Kate’s breakout EP, “The More That I Am Old,” is a pilgrimage of the heart in a four-song span.” -GO

Guest Writer

out of 10

Threadbare Brother
The More That I Am Old
August 7, 2009

Ambitious without spiraling into cliché, diverse without losing coherency, poetic yet never overly sentimental, and an exploration into the weight and beauty of a spiritual life without all the dogmatic drum-beating, Tim & Kate’s breakout EP, “The More That I Am Old,” is a pilgrimage of the heart in a four-song span. With a vocal style suggestive of Copeland and Matt Hires, this fraternal duo marries indie influences with folk instrumentals for a genesis of sound that is wholly engaging and original. At the risk of some sentimentality of my own here, listening to this album was a lot like being shown a soft and weathered landscape—a landscape which, only after searching each shady path and dusty footprint, you realize has been you all along.

As the title insinuates, this album is all about the things that endure, through old age and bone, and the weight of these life-pieces we carry with us. In a vibrancy of lyricism, this is precisely what the first song, “Autumn Noon,” piles upon us: “The smell of smoke / the autumn noon / the sun-stained leaves are falling soon / the orange breeze / yellow light . . . the sleepless sun,” etc. Accompanied by the gentle slippage of a slide guitar, each one of these images settles upon the listener like the sound of home, slipping out of the music and into your skin. Which is precisely the idea. As the Walker siblings sing, these are the memories that “settle deep in my heart,” compounding one image after another in order to proclaim, “When I am old / I will carry these things.”

And as listener, you get to carry them, too. Alone on a farmland stretching far and wide, with nothing but a heavy heart to keep you company, each lyric settles like a breeze on the long horizon, pushing everything into place. But just as the sliding echo of the guitar flows and fades, so do the images seem to slip away, held only by the heart and bones that remember them. It is music and lyrics touchingly blended, emoting as only good music can.

As great as all that is, though, let me go ahead and say that if words like “Lord” and “Christ” are the cold-shower equivalents to your musical hard-on, then the next two songs won’t be nearly as sexy. Laced with more than a smattering of religious allusion, “O’Tower” and “Be Strong, Be Courageous” definitely displays the band’s spiritual side. But I wouldn’t (thank God) exactly call them Christian Rock. In the trend of the EP, they have more weight to them than that.

“O’Tower” is definitely a shift in mood from “Autumn Noon,” creating a much slower, more percussive sound. At first, the song even feels slightly redundant. As it goes on, though, the repeated one-handed drumming actually adds something ponderous to the lyrics. The song gets heavier. We feel the tower being built upon us the same as we are trapped inside it. Some of the lyrics do feel forced here, however, in a way that isn’t true for the rest of the album (which, I suppose, is to be expected; only so many words rhyme with “tower,” after all). It also becomes much richer once Kate joins her brother on vocals (which, in my opinion, happens far too late in this song, and far too scarcely on the album as a whole). Their duets are generally pretty powerful.

“Be Strong, Be Courageous” is the next song on the album, and it shifts the tone yet again. Far more up-beat, it is a celebration of that which is always present, as opposed to being weighed-down by it. Although pretty overrun with religious imagery, the song itself feels as though it could be any love song, not just one in which “I, the Lord, go before you . . . Across the desert, across the Jordan.” It is about something that endures even through the long journey of life (“I will not abandon you”). A beautiful sentiment, but if the “Lord” stuff gets in your way, then tune out the lyrics as best you can. The song is still worth bobbing a head to.

The EP’s closing song and title track, “The More That I Am Old,” brings us back to a more traditional country feel with which we started out. Only this time, in a more somber way. The slowly-plucked strings in the background of this song, resonating nearly one at a time, gives off the impression of falling footsteps. The music walks through the lyrical landscape. Which is an appropriate sensation, given the movement of the song, where we are taken through various settings (“the valley,” “the abbey,” “the city,” etc.) one at a time, each of them “asking,” in its own voice, for “me [i.e. you] to stay.” It is a slow journey, and the melody matches the lingering mood.

Thus, we leave the album having absorbed a wealth of different landscapes, from the spiritual to the personal to cities and towers. Yet, as the last song concludes, the final dwelling place—a place beyond all these where their weight is kept—is always inevitably the heart. This is the sensation the entire album works to achieve, a vast journey that you realize to be an inward one the whole time. It’s you who must carry these things. You who will journey into old age.

The closing lyrics: “My heart is asking me to stay.”

–Gino Orlandi, September 24, 2010