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Tim O’Brien (from the album Cup of Sugar available on Howdy Skies Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Tim O’Brien is no stranger to creating memorable music. A multi-talented singer and instrumentalist, he’s shared those skills over the vast expanse of a nearly 50-year career and a variety of recordings reflecting the fact that he’s a master of his craft. Known primarily as a Bluegrass musician, he played a part in several ensembles — the seminal Nu-grass outfit Hot Rize, Red Knuckles, NewGrange, The Earls of Leicester, and the duo he shared with his sister, Mollie O’Brien.
On Cup of Sugar, his recent release, O’Brien’s found a willing and reliable collaboration with his wife, Jan Fabricius, who takes her turn by contributing vocals and mandolin. In addition, an array of special guests plays a part as well, a list that includes drummers Jamie Dick and Paul Burch, bassists Dennis Crouch and Mike Bub, Thom Jutz on guitar, Shad Cobb on fiddle, Richie Stearns and Cory Walker playing banjo, Russ Pahl contributing steel guitar, keyboard player Mike Rojas, and, perhaps most notably, the vocals and guitar of Bluegrass great Del McCoury. Jutz, Ronnie Bowman, Jonathon Byrd, Shawn Camp along with Chris and Donnie Davison share in the songwriting, making for not only an exceptional set of songs, but one that’s easily accessible and melodic as well.
While Bluegrass and Nu-grass have been the genres O’Brien’s primarily been known for, suffice it to say that his commitment to folk tradition is prevalent overall. The music on the new album attests to that fact, not only insofar as the easy affable melodies, but also in terms of the stories shared in the songs themselves. Most come across as parables of sorts, and often the focus falls on nature’s natural inhabitants. “Bear” finds its namesake waking from a winter’s sleep only to discover that the trees in his habitat have been chopped down and he no longer has his place to dwell. Likewise, “Thinkin’ Like a Fish”, as its title implies, tells a story from a fish’s point of view, describing his desire to avoid a frying pan or becoming a trophy on someone’s wall.
That doesn’t mean Tim O’Brien negates any human aspects of current circumstance. The title track, “Cup of Sugar”, describes his relationship with a somewhat erratic neighbor, while “She Can’t, He Won’t, And They’ll Never” details a couple’s domestic travails. “Little Lamb Little Lamb” mixes things up, using the sheep’s life as an analogy for growing graceful with age. So too, songs such as “Goodbye Old Friend” and “Let the Horses Run” reflect that certain sense of shared humanity through both resilience and resolve. All in all, that allows this Cup Of Sugar to overflow with assurance, enjoyment and overall engagement. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Tim O’Brien from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Tim O’Brien website
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