Tim van Eyken

– Steve Kersley: MD, Proper Music Distribution

Tim van Eyken - Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves

Amidst what will no doubt be called the folk boom of the last few years a number of new, younger artists have made their mark: Seth Lakeman, Kate Rusby, Cara Dillon, Karine Polwart etc.

Criminally overlooked and so close to joining that group was Tim van Eyken whose 2006 Topic debut Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves remains, to my mind, one of the best folk albums of the last 10 years.

It’s easy to understand the pedigree; Tim spent formative years as the fourth and only non-family member of Waterson:Carthy. You’ve got to assume that working with Martin, Eliza and Norma would provide the best musical education in folk. Then surrounding himself with some of his best contemporaries: Oliver Knight, Nancy Kerr, Colin Fletcher and Bellowhead percussion genius Pete Flood, Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves emerged. From the startling opening of Barleycorn throughout to David Angel’s distinctive sleeve images, it’s pretty near flawless. For those introduced to the folk world by the tunes & songs of Seth Lakeman it was a drop of the hard stuff – challenging, eye-opening and even a little threatening.

The bad luck was that the release was sandwiched between Seth’s Freedom Fields and Bellowhead’s Burlesque. Not only did this mean that Tim never got, for example, the acclaim at that year’s Folk Awards but on good authority, he made it as far as the last shortlist before the final Mercury award nominations were announced in 2006. Later to add insult, he finished 5th in the pre-ballot for BBC World Music  album of the year, the top 4 going through to the higher profile final.

Perhaps what adds to the lustre is that as yet, there is no follow up and it stands alone. I’d like to think that daunted by the massive challenge of topping Stiffs, Tim has pursued other artistic endeavours, most notably War Horse at the National and last week, BBC R4 documentaries. One day though…


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Some of Topic’s finest albums

A bunch of Topic Record covers

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