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By Steven Saunders (associate professor of music)
Tim O'Brien '76's latest CD,Real Time,a collaboration with the multi-talented Darrell Scott, showcases both performers as singers, instrumentalists and songwriters. The 13 tracks (recorded live in "real time" in Scott's living room) are an apt mix of old and new, with nine original songs written or co-written by O'Brien or Scott alongside four traditional numbers, including the murder ballad "Little Sadie," the gospel song "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin'" and two covers of Hank Williams songs. The duo not only provide vocal support for each other's solos but also furnish nearly all the instrumental accompaniment, playing a banjo, bouzouki, fiddle, guitar, Hawaiian guitar, mandola and mandolin.
O'Brien's roots in bluegrass music are nearly always apparent, particularly in his fluent finger-picking and in his vocal duets with Scott. Yet the album is at once eclectic and original, showing influences as diverse as old-time music, rock, gospel, blues and country-western and-in the final, hilarious song, "The Second Mouse"-references to flamenco, country fiddling, Tin Pan Alley, Paganini, "Dueling Banjos" and even the theme from The Flintstones.
O'Brien's talents as a singer and songwriter are nowhere more evident than in the ballad "I'm Not Gonna Forget You," a moving tribute to the late Charles Sawtelle, a member of O'Brien's old band Hot Rize. O'Brien's mellow yet intense baritone lovingly conveys the almost palpable memory of someone lost.
Instrumental virtuosity is evident everywhere on the album; listen, for example, to the tight rapport in the instrumental section of "There Ain't No Easy Way," where O'Brien and Scott draw more than a dozen different textures from the banjo and guitar in just a few bars. In short, Real Time is a delight-a rich and varied CD that is sure to please anyone with even a passing interest in contemporary acoustic music.
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College Colby Magazine 4181
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