Timothy Renner

Songs for a Sacred Memory

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Written for Timothy Renner's wife, Alison Renner, as an anniversary present -- the last song names her specifically -- Songs for a Sacred Memory is very much in the vein of Renner's work in Stone Breath: a strictly solo work that shows his deftness in playing and his knowledge of folk backgrounds. That can be seen from the start, with Donovan's "A Soft Blade of Grass for a Ring," given a stately and warm rendition, then leading to a collection of mostly original pieces. The unusual range of instrumentation Renner brings to his work is present again -- credited instruments include dumbek, bandura, harmonium, and reed organ, along with the expected banjos and dulcimers. Though the effect can often be haunting and mysterious, with Renner's singing tending towards the low-key and reflective, his lyrics have a deep passion that is definitely poetic as much as it is lyric ("I Am but a Flower at Your Feet" is especially fine). On songs like "The Heart and Star of Sacred Memory," the slow, almost waltz-like flow of the music, keyboards, and guitars, intertwine in a gentle wave; it is both romantic and enveloping. "Of Bloody Wings and Sleep's Death," at the center of the album, really is a core piece and then some, with Renner's absolutely entrancing arrangement truly acid-folk in the best psychedelic/meditative sense. "Goodnight Alison" itself, the aforementioned closer, is the most experimental of the songs, steering away from a stripped-down structure to an open-ended series of drones and overlays. When the lyrics do kick in, Renner hides them in the mix a bit, muffled a good part of time -- almost as if it was a private message meant for his wife alone, and why not?