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Summer 2000  
   
 

Huey and the Mountain
James ‘Huey’ Coleman ’70 captures Mt. Katahdin on film.

   
 

The Skinny on Film School
Tiare White ’92 has a new book on what they don’t teach you in film school.

   
  Pickin’ at Bluegrass
Tim O’Brien ’76 melds musical influences in his new CD.
   
 

recent releases
Books on Tap
Read about Martin Luther King Jr., Latin American economies, Plato and getting a job.

   
  arts

Memories of Father
Elizabeth Tippett ’00 weaves images in ‘La Esperanza’

Smithsonian Treasures
Museums abstract and modernist treasures are bound for Colby.

 

By Steven Saunders (associate professor of music)

CD cover

Real Time
Howdy Skies Records

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.

About the Artist

Tim O'Brien returned for his sophomore year at Colby in 1973 only to find that the bluegrass band he'd been playing in no longer needed his services. "I felt like my life was over," O'Brien said from his home in Nashville. In terms of music, his life was just beginning.

O'Brien left Colby and made his way to Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he landed his first paying gig: room and board for playing in a pizza joint. The musician who once practiced in a Dana Hall stairwell was on his way.

A gifted songwriter now fluent in mandolin, fiddle and guitar, O'Brien has spent the last 25 years exploring musical worlds and absorbing them into his own genre-bending sound. He has played bluegrass and traditional folk and recently explored his Celtic roots in the CD The Crossing. In April the CD Real Time was released on O'Brien's new label, Howdy Skies Records.

A born-and-raised West Virginian, O'Brien said his bluegrass tastes actually were whetted at Colby, where he found a group of kindred musical spirits and an indefatigable supporter in Shirley Littlefield, the bluegrass fan and Dana dining hall legend. O'Brien arrived on Mayflower Hill with a guitar but soon branched out. "Jeff McKeen ['76] had a mandolin. He went away for spring break and I stayed. I borrowed that mandolin and started playing it. That was the start."

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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