Tim Hulsman: Dead Man's Garden

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Tim Hulsman: Dead Man's Garden

Tim Hulsman grew up in a close-knit community where he learnt to play homegrown music. Rather than an introduction via 12-bar blues and Dylan his musical experience and expression was restricted to Christian tunes. Like many treading the alt-folk path, the lapsed Jehovah’s Witness turned a defiant early ear towards the dreaded world of ‘rock and/or roll’. A reflective soul with stories to tell was bound to slide across to blues and roots eventually, and that’s where the Geelong musician’s third solo album shines.
It opens – after a quietly ominous overture – with Lead Belly’s ‘Goodnight Irene’. Hulsman shares credit for the arrangement with Kelly Joe Phelps. The much-covered classic sounds as though it could’ve been written last week; Hulsman making it his own without a hint of try-hard pretence. He takes the listener along a thoughtful acoustic ramble, the pleasantly soporific effect neither safe nor dull. Love songs are warmed by the accompanying vocals of partner Nina Grant. ‘You Are a Mountain’ features her light and sparse piano notes to balance Hulsman’s vocals. Here he croons deep and mellow to high and earnest, as effortlessly as Gordon Lightfoot or Jimmy Little.
Hulsman sings of the love for his woman and child and takes a good hard look at himself through the years. ‘Yours Finally’: ‘Well I’m breaking all the rules I set myself’; ‘Silly Old Me’: ‘I thought I could change the world … Silly old me’. Leaving the wistful mood behind, he brings it home with the rolling, stomping, sliding ‘Road Song’.
He’s journeyed from the straight and narrow to the broad church of roots music that suits him very well.
Out now via Only Blues Music
By Chris Lambie