Bar Bodega, Room 101
December 22 | Reviewed by Tim G

Timothy Blackman is an impassioned and captivating artist live. The night’s performance – for the release of Modern Sprawl – was obviously an intimate affair; two days out from Christmas, this was not an opportune time for such a gig and it seemed that mostly friends and family hugged the walls to see Blackman in his hometown.

Modern Sprawl is Blackman’s second offering, following on from 2006’s Giraffes, Wharves and Sinking Sand. It’s an album highlighting the evolution of Blackman’s songwriting into a concerted and remarkable record. I like Blackman’s style; whilst it has the integrity of traditional singer/songwriter tunes, it has an extra bite that sets it apart.

On this album Blackman has diversified instrumentation and style. Opening track ‘Bermuda Triangle’ is a pop ditty, whilst ‘An Isolated Waltz’ is an earnest, down-tempo song. Blackman’s songs are still stripped back yet he adds violin and drums as complement. His voice varies from swooning to broken and raspy, which entitles every song to its own body and mood. The title track is classic folk guitar music. The standout track is ‘Trip to the plain’; it’s an epic song that is moving and beautifully crafted.

Blackman live is something of a different experience to his recorded work. Blackman has captured the soul of his songs, yet reserves the impassioned energy of them for his live show. Unassumingly and unannounced, Blackman takes a seat and starts playing. Lead through songs from both Giraffes Wharfs and Sinking and Modern Sprawl, Blackman showcases his talent as an engaging and intense artist. Songs such as ‘Pigeon in the Vampire’ and ‘Trip to the plain are’ concentrated. His guitar playing is simple but his voice and the enormity or if resounds off the walls of Room 101. He sings possessed, as if a band backed him, and this is truly stirring. After only six songs Blackman abruptly puts down his guitar and retreats into the crowd. Perhaps the familiarity of the crowd, or just the fact he had given us so much in such a small amount of time, compels him to do this. But it really didn’t matter; in fact, it seemed fitting. It was abrupt and intense, yet personified Blackman and what he does.

Blackman creates something that is charming yet has teeth. He owns a sound that is classic, yet for a singsong writer it is bold.