I mentioned recently that when going through the numerous new arrivals in the Team GDW email inbox, sometimes it takes a cool or obscure name to grab my attention and prompt a click to open. Like the recent email received from Bobby Tenderloin – how could anybody not be curious about that email? Bobby pitched his debut “Sandpaper One Side, Rubber on the Other” single via that email, which quickly became a summer favorite of ours, and was more than worthy of being shared here.
Scanning through some of our latest messages over the last few weeks, another name jumped out at me: Timothy Scott Bignell. And while Bignell does not merit the same level of curiosity as Tenderloin, my instincts told me to pay attention and check this correspondence out. Bignell may not be a common surname, but with it came familiarity; yes, we know another Bignell pretty well, that being Craig Bignell from folk duo, Over The Moon. Imagine our complete surprise when learning that Ontario-based Timothy (Tim) and Alberta-based Craig happen to be siblings. Craig is also credited as the drummer on this album. Oh, ‘tis a small world indeed!!!
Produced and mastered by Brad Dugas at Revelation Sound Studios in Guelph, ON, “Still In Love…” was released independently by Tim earlier this year. “This is a record I’ve worked on for well over ten years,” he explains. “My record is faith-based about life in the valleys more so than on the mountain tops.” Bignell credits his own personal experiences of life, love, faith, regrets, guilt, family, and redemption by God’s grace, at the heart of the twelve original compositions found on the album. He draws his songwriting inspiration from Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song for a Winter’s Night,” declaring this as one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and one that convinced him to also become a writer. “I sell appliances for a living in Waterloo,” he adds. “I just turned sixty years old, and I’m still dreaming of performing someday.”
Falling easily into the contemporary Christian genre, Tim’s observations about life, love and faith are captured beautifully by his rich, lyrical skills, making this debut album one that pushes the boundaries into the folk world too. And while spiritual and faith-based music is not normally my cup-of-tea, Tim’s masterful story-telling had me seeking a closer connection to his music, his messages, and those life experiences in no time. Indeed, with the opening track, “Jellybean Rain,” he is quick to share a composition about holding on to regrets and guilt, before letting it all go. “May I dance my life with no umbrella / Staying drenched head to toe with your love / Til the day I’m drawn to heaven / From the power of your Son / Cover me Lord, a common man / Cover me Lord, a common man.”
One track that I keep returning to on this album is “Blood Harmony.” Clocking in at a little over seven minutes in length, this epic eulogy to his late brothers Bobby and Terry is incredibly moving, as is the fact that both passed at the age of 59. Heavy hearted piano strokes, courtesy of Ian Tanner, fill the speakers here to set the tone, while Tim once again recites the story through his observations during their passing. “For in our darkest hour your brightest ones begun / For death it has no power when your risen with the Son / One day like an eagle with faith we too shall rise / Until that day is forever your in our heart’s tonight.” Epic not only in length, but in stirring sentimentality too, as discovered when reaching the Leonard Cohen worthy final bridge that wraps and comforts you: “In blood harmony we’ll praise the Lord / Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah / Praise the Lord.”
Maybe it was sheer coincidence that I was playing this album during the 9/11 commemorations last week, but the subliminal timing certainly had me paying extra attention to “Overpass Eulogy.” Composed and performed with an incredibly heavy heart, this closing piece is Tim’s tribute to the ultimate sacrifices made by military personnel in the pursuit of defending our freedom. “[The song] suggests how our flag got its colors and the price for our freedom,” he offers. “I pictured every bridge down the Highway of Heroes [as] a church pew, and the drive was a funeral in motion.” And how about those lyrics? Incredibly touching, deeply reflective, and purposely somber out of respect for those whom we mourn. “Our Canadian flag has no borders / Serving humanity from afar / The red’s from the blood that has fallen / And what flows within us all / Let us see the white as snow peaked mountains / And remember the price of our freedom is high / And may the maple leaf remind us daily / As it flies proud nationwide.”
If asked to select the one track that truly stands out for me, “Concrete Canvas” is an easy choice. I smiled as I discovered the great instrumentation that, for me, pays homage to the almost synth power-rock sound of mid 1980s movie scores. The joys from those pounding piano key strokes. The recollection of that era from the intermittent guitar cries. Yet both suddenly pale in comparison to Tim’s completely unexpected vocals. Narrating his lines, as opposed to singing, the eighties theme is further reinforced by an easy comparison to fellow Canadian Robbie Robertson. Indeed, “Concrete Canvas” and “Somewhere Down The Crazy River” could have been twins separated at birth. “Down the icy path he treaded step by step through snow and hard times / His only traction, life’s desperation / Clutching an old moving blanket, his defender at night / She pulled up alongside his, her wings an SUV / Out reached hands embraced weather cracked fingers / Like a leper for the moment was no called clean / A few dollars for perked comfort, a meal from the front seat / And in a backdrop of exhaust and taillights I saw scripture in the streets; church to those in need.” Yes, I’m betting you heard Robbie’s voice in your head as you read those lines.
“Still In Love…” is not an album that you are likely to find in your favorite record store. These twelve original compositions are unlikely to be heard on the radio. But for a certain appliance salesperson in Waterloo, ON, this is his dream. For Timothy Scott Bignell, this collection of deeply personal life stories, memories and experiences are now permanently etched for all time in a digital format. For Timothy Scott Bignell, like a good Yorkshire Pudding, these stories are to be shared, and enjoyed, by all. Thanks, Tim, for choosing to share your journey and memories with us too.