Here is a tribute record of a difference. One thing, it is a family affair as the families of Tim O’Brien and his sister, Mollie who are no strangers of sharing a recording studio. Since they have made three duet albums together and long overdue another; secondly it isn’t all about Roger Miller’s biggest hits. Sure, they include ‘King Of The Road’ but what would a tribute to the all-time genius be with it! Miller was a one-off, an eclectic songwriter who could spin round any subject and make light of it and bring a smile to faces made of stone. In many ways Miller was like, Blind Alfred Reed who Tim O’Brien also generously took time (with a wonderful cast of musicians) to pay homage to via the album, Always Lift Him Up (Proper American Records).
Both acts are heavily involved plus, you have Mollie’s other half Rich Moore (vocals, acoustic, resonator and electric guitar), their daughters Brigid (vocals) and Lucy (vocals, keyboards) and Tim’s sons Jackson (vocals, bass), Joel (vocals, percussive dance, hambone) with John Gardner (drums) a notable guest. Multi-picker Tim plays mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, pump organ and also sings lead on two songs and also duets with Mollie on Roger’s biggie ‘King Of The Road’.
When I first heard Tim was set to record a bunch of songs from Miller I thought, fantastic! Then on seeing the two families of Mollie and him I felt how would this work? But fear not the second generation are well and truly up to the task, to the degree they have made it a more entertaining (as Miller would have liked it) and ‘eclectic’. For time after time I was thrilled by their interpretations of this bunch of mainly, lesser-known fare from Miller as the likes of ‘Hand For the Hog’ (I love it when he sings about a hog rolling a cigarette) Mollie’s striking, she has one of my favourite singing voices of all-time rendition of the playful ‘Reincarnation’. An inspired choice for the title-track it there ever were one and Lucy Moore’s subtle playing of keyboards and mandolin escorting her heavenly tones the records hits the boards running. She likewise sings the hell out of ‘Train Of Life’ plus there is the little matter of her and Tim’s funky, bluegrass steeped version of a mandolin, keyboards and acoustic guitar fired ‘King Of The Road’. What a fabulous closing cut! As previously noted, the ‘kids’ shine too. Joel who has a fine, strong edgy singing voice and wonderful percussive talent (his dance and hambone work also lend a difference, as on killer recording ‘In the Summertime’, ‘Hand On The Hog’ etc….) opens the way to set the standard on ‘As Long As There’s A Shadow’ (that underlines the creative mind of Miller too). His brother, Jackson relishes and gets into it on ‘Guv’ment’ that has an attitude and on given a bluesy edge it sounds as fresh as the day written. Of the older guard, Rich Moore presses a claim of the most entertaining guy found on the record via ‘Got 2 Again’! Great fun-loving song to be prescribed us wack-a-doodle brains.
Mollie’s girls, Lucy, I have fallen in love with her pure, silky tones as heard on the lively ‘Tall Tall Trees’ (a co-write with George Jones and recorded by Alan Jackson) and what about Brigid the least experienced musical act. Her yodel aided version of ‘Swiss Maid’ is just perfect. With sensitive support she too is a winner. While they girls share vocal duties on the warm 'n friendly ‘You’re My Kingdom’ that though a little more folky and sweet sounding than I prefer their efforts are a credit to Miller’s work. Now go check out more from Tim, Mollie and of course the inimitable ROGER MILLER!
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