November 17, 2006

Timothea Goes Home

From our friend Nancy with the mighty KPFT in Houston, my wife and I learned yesterday of the passing of New Orleans blues chanteuse Timothea Beckerman after a long battle with Hepatitis C. Pre-Kartina, the diminutive singer organized a number of annual multi-artist music benefits in her hometown which raised funds to promote awareness of the disease; and I was fortunate to have attended several. I first became aware of Timothea through her appearance on Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington’s Wolf Tracks CD back in 1986. She did a duo with him on a song they wrote, “It Was Fun While It Lasted”, one of five songs on the album they co-wrote. In funky tribute to her, I went to the racks and pulled out one of my favorite tracks from one of her own CDs to feature today.



"If You Think About It" (Timothea Berkerman)
Timothea, from Goin' Home To Mama, Blue Soul, 1995


Producing Goin’ Home to Mama herself on the label she started, Timothea enlisted the Wolfman to help with the arrangements and play guitar on all the tracks. “If You Think About It” quickly establishes an irresistible stutter-stepping groove courtesy of one of New Orleans’ best drummers, Wilbert ‘Junkyard Dog’ Arnold, who was with Washington’s band, the Roadmasters, at the time. The other players rounding out this track in style are Alonzo Johnson on bass, and either Bob Andrews or John Autin on the B-3 (I’d say it’s probably Andrews). With its spare instrumentation and way funky feel, the tune makes for an engaging musical ride, as Timothea sings her musings on the state of things. A gritty, scrappy singer without a lot of dynamics or range, she had the gift of picking or writing songs that didn’t force her out of her vocal comfort zone, so that her delivery felt like an easy, organic part of the song. That in itself is a true gift. We all have our limitations. It’s how you use what you’ve got that’s important.

As you can tell if you read that biographical link above, Timothea had a knack for working with some of New Orleans’ best musicians, from her first single cut as a teenager in the mid-1960s onward. I may not have warmed up to everything she did, but I like a lot of it and respect her as talented, classy, empowered artist. I am very sorry to know she’s gone and will miss her, as, I am sure, will her loved ones and homeys. Not that anybody has a say in these matters; but it’s particularly hard now for the city to lose another bright thread in its cultural fabric. So may God rest your soul, Timothea, and bless New Orleans some more, too, while He’s at it.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jipes said...

Well the great stuff is that with you Dan I discover every day new talented artists and groovy records that ain't no good for my purse but great for my soul ;o)

I'm sorry to discover this new artist after her passing that's a shame ! She had a great voice and a cool loose laid back style of singing ! The rythmn section is great too That's too bad I'm gonna look for this record anyway !

BTW did you ever talk of Galactic in your columns I don't know much of them except that the talented Stanton Moore is grooving like crazy so I wonder if you have nay good recommandations ?

6:24 AM, November 20, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Well, Jipes, I too am sorry that Timothea's passing had to be the occasion of my first post on her.

I've mentioned Galactic here. I usually don't post current recordings that are in retail circulation, unless the band tells me it's OK. I don't know any of 'em personally - but I know some people who know them. . . so, maybe one day. Anyway, they are playing in Lafayette in two days, with my friends from Memphis, the Gamble Brothers Band (who I have posted on here) opening; and I'm really looking forward to that show!

They are a great bunch of musicians and an outrageously funky band, who I saw early on when they were pretty young and have followed over the years. Their drummer, Stanton Moore, has always been a monster player. I suggest you or anybody else who might be curious about them to start with their early recordings, which are very good, and work up. They have gotten much more intense over the years, and that's a good thing. Stanton's solo recordings and side projects (Garage A Tois, for example) are great, too.

1:30 AM, November 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jipes said...

Thanks Dan I'm gonna check the earlier release of Galactic ;o)
I was introduced to Stanton Moore through Charlie Hunter's music. I bought Stanton solo release "Fly the Koop" and I highly recommend it , this guy as captured some great groovy second line stuff from Nawlins that's for sure and much more. On that one he is seconded by the great bass player Chris Wood from Martin Medeski & Wood

6:04 AM, November 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There will be a memorial service for Timothea Saturday, February 17 from 10am-12pm on the Magnolia bridge behind Cabrini High School. It is being organized by her son. Spread the word.

8:31 PM, January 29, 2007  

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