If you’re in search of spine-tingling harmonies and hair-raising vocals there’s few better places to be than in the company of US singer and multi-instrumentalist Tim Eriksen and duo Cath & Phil Tyler who conclude their UK mini tour this evening. Last night it was the dimly-lit downstairs bar at London’s Slaughtered Lamb that provided a strangely ideal setting for their songs of love, loss and the promise of a better life in the next world. Cath’s spellbinding delivery of ballads from the Anne & Frank Warner collection and songs from the American Sacred Harp songbook were accompanied by Phil’s lush harmonies and atmospheric guitar playing, making a great first half.
Later on, Eriksen played the gloom to his advantage. With a penchant for wearing black, he emerged from the darkness almost unseen and silenced the interval chatter with a blast of that magnificent voice, launching straight into an a cappella version of Farewell To Old Bedford. With the audience in the palm of his hand, he delivered songs of gooseflesh intensity – Oh Death (made famous by Ralph Stanley in the film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?), The Golden Harp (from The Sacred Harp), a song capturing the wax and wane of the moon with Tim adding extra resonance by throat singing with a banjo in front of his face (yes, it worked) and the Macedonian song Zajdi, Zajdi among others – unaccompanied or propelled by Eriksen’s raw, earthy fiddle playing, eloquent banjo picking and rhythmic drive on the bajo sexto and guitar.
Interspersed with rambling tales of crazy preachers, dreams of Ralph Stanley wearing a crown of purple daisies and Nicole Kidman chasing a bear in Transylvania (I kid you not), there was plenty to capture the imagination. Cath & Phil joined Eriksen for an acoustic revisiting of Cordelia’s Dad repertoire, with stonking versions of Camille’s Not Afraid of the Barn and Granite Mills while the audience were invited to imagine the guitar distortion.
Catch them at Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre this evening – you’re in for a treat.