Tim Reynolds will surprise you. If you put on his latest release, 2005’s Parallel Universe, hoping for something akin to “Dancing Nancies” and “Ants Marching,” you’ll fall backwards out of your chair. The album is far more Peter Gabriel-meets-Trent Reznor than jolly-mon-sing Dave Matthews fare.
What’s undeniable about Reynolds, evident throughout his varied catalog of recordings, is his masterful command of the guitar. From earsplitting industrial leads to rapid fire acoustic tremolos, the man does what he wants on a fingerboard.
For his current tour, which kicks off this Thursday in Charleston, Reynolds takes the solo acoustic approach. “That’s kind of been my mood for the last eight or nine years,” he told City Paper on the phone from Santa Fe, N.M., packing up his house for a move to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
“Playing acoustic is like the inner self of music,” he says. “Everything goes in and can come back out on that instrument in a relatively easy way. Genres like reggae, metal, funk, and blues have a certain kind of electric guitar sound that’s associated with them. I love to delve into that, get experimental with stuff, and come back to the acoustic with all the things one’s learned from those experiences.”
Experimentation is a constant aspect of Reynolds’ playing, even on stage. He improvises loops to segue from one song into another, and isn’t afraid to run his dreadnought Martin guitars through a series of effects. “It often sounds like I’m looping, but I’m using these really long delays and playing rhythm into that until I hear myself echoing,” he says.
On this tour, he’s playing a new “sustainable wood” guitar made by Martin, a company that grows its own trees in order to avoid using endangered rosewoods increasingly high in demand. “For some reason, it sounds so amazing,” says Reynolds. “They put a little bit of a hump in the back of it and it adds a lot of low end. It’s sweet.”
Although Reynolds is more of an instrumentalist than a singer, he doesn’t hide his politics either. Banner ads on his website show his support for the Common Ground Collective’s efforts in New Orleans, a link to register to vote, and a petition to stop funding the war.
Earlier this spring, Reynolds toured Europe with Dave Matthews, his first trip back across the pond since his birth on an Army base in Germany. “The whole place was just so cool, because it wasn’t under some freaked out hologram like the United States is under, with the daily report of some fake terrorist threat, scaring the shit out of people so they’ll be very submissive to whatever kind of bullshit agenda the government has,” he says. “These countries aren’t perfect, but they have a sense of maturity that this country has lost. It’s just a relief to go.”
The world Tim Reynolds lives in is as intense as the energy he puts into playing. He smoothly transitions from an intimate arpeggio to “pounding the hell out of it” in the same song. If there’s a genre to describe his music, it’s somewhere between “Wow” and “Holy Cow.”