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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Singer-songwriters, multi-pickers and sometime producers Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott have toured extensively over the years. Both in their own right and as part of Steve Earle’s Bluegrass Dukes, the Transatlantic Sessions and as in Scott’s case with Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy the two played a great deal together during the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the good news is they are about to go out on the road once again.
Taken from two live benefit shows the accomplished acts performed in 2005 and 2006 for The Arthur Morgan School, a progressive boarding school in the mountains of western North Carolina the music though acoustic —it sounds electric! Such is the atmosphere induced by O’Brien’s relentless probing on mandolin and Scott’s omnipresent acoustic guitar as not only do they mock the album’s title but take musicianship of their idiom to another level. One familiar to only the likes of them; among the performances set to leave you slack jawed is their rubber burning version of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘White Freightliner Blues’ (it is on the conclusion Tim makes the tongue-in-cheek remark) and with their instruments well primed ‘Mick Ryan’s Lament’ (Robert Emmet Dunlap). Then with banjo utilised ‘With A Memory Like Mine’ comes through like it was on the back of a hurricane! A co-write between Scott and his father, Wayne Scott it builds into a powerful, all embracing affair as it gains great momentum to take the curves like it was on a precipice. So keen is the bond between the acts, and spontaneous impulse to throw themselves head long into the fire of creativity it is a case of the music tottering (but always on the right side) on the edge.
Gordon Lightfoot’s great piece ‘Early Morning Rain’ has O’Brien sing a great version with Scott on harmony vocals but the competition on this album is so great it isn't in the top three! As in ‘Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning’ (man, the way their vocals rub off one another is UNBELIEVABLE), ‘You Don’t Have To Move That Mountain’ (Keith Whitley) plus you have Scott’s swirling, feel good ‘Long Time Gone’ (one of three songs they recorded for their album, Real Time) that speaks of how life once was and how isn’t for coming back again. Days when there were lots of small farms and not huge conglomerate owned ones. People were connected mind body and soul to the land then, and though times could be hard the feel of owning and working for the good of the family was worth every drop of sweat. As for Scott's vocals and the playing, it is as good as at anytime on the album and doesn't the audience let them know it! And when it comes to easing their foot off the pedal ‘The Hummingbird’ that speaks of his childhood and of an old Hummingbird guitar.
Tim’s love of old country music; as he used to perform in Colorado bluegrass combo Hot Rize’s alt-ego unit, Red Knuckles & The Trail Blazers gains inclusion. Via Lefty Frizzell’s ‘Mom And Dad’s Waltz’ prior to them producing their tour de force of ‘When There’s No One Around / Will The Circle Be Unbroken’. Killer!!! Follow that, no way. Not even Tim and Darrell were up for taking it on and how wise they were too.
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