Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott
Howdy Skies Records
These two guys really saved Steve Earle’s ass last year, when he and the Del McCoury Band parted ways mid-tour in support of The Mountain . I don’t know of anyone else he could’ve called on who would’ve been able to step in and do such a capable job of keeping the tour alive on such short notice and with so very little practice. This alone is a strong testament to their abilities. Not that they needed any more validation. Both of them are highly regarded and very busy musicians as well as critically-acclaimed solo artists.
West Virginian O’Brien was the founder of Hot-Rize, a traditional-sounding bluegrass band that was dominant on the bluegrass scene from 1978-1990, as well as its off-the-wall alter-ego, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. Since the breakup of Hot-Rize, O’Brien has released a number of fine recordings — some solo, some with sister Mollie. Just last year, O’Brien collaborated with Dirk Powell and John Hermann on Songs From the Mountain , a collection of recordings that was based on Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain . This last recording produced what has become a new classic with “Raleigh and Spencer.” Steve Earle picked up on this song before he picked up O’Brien and Scott to finish his tour.
Kentucky-born Darrell Scott is one of Nashville’s best and most in-demand session men, as well as an incredible solo artist in his own right — despite his seeming lack of commercial success. In my opinion, Scott’s Aloha From Nashville is a must-have for most anyone who appreciates good, jazz-influenced country music. His style is really hard to pigeonhole as country, but if Lyle Lovett is considered country, then I suppose you could say that Scott is as well.
Both of these artists are somewhat out of the mainstream, but I doubt that there is a big name country or folk act who wouldn’t heap them with praise and give their eye-teeth for just a little of their talent. It’s artists like this — true to a vision and willing to work under the radar to further it, who are the true heart and soul of Nashville. Both of them have done session work, written songs, produced or otherwise somehow put their stamp on work that I’m sure you’ve all heard, whether or not you can put their names with it.
This is their first recorded collaboration, and a fine one it is. It was recorded in Scott’s living room over the course of one week last November in “real time,” hence the title. The interplay here is very smooth, to the point of being familial. I’d attribute this to their shared vision and their almost three years of touring together. The selection of songs also reflect their common tastes. This release includes a healthy number of covers, including two Hank Williams tunes — “Weary Blues from Waitin'” and “A House of Gold.” In keeping with tradition, they have included the requisite hillbilly murder ballad with their take on “Little Sadie.” Still, the originals fit in almost seamlessly. The O’Brien/Scott tune “Walk Beside Me” and “More Love,” a tune O’Brien wrote with Gary Nicholson, are probably the strongest of the lot of originals, but the songs are all good. “Helen of Troy, Pennsylvania” sorta goes outside of what you might expect, with its tale of two brothers’ early experience with a prostitute. It’s all timeless stuff. It’s good, simple, enduring music that you will not be embarrassed to have in your collection many, many years from now.
Howdy Skies Records, P.O. Box 120283, Nashville, TN 37212; http://www.howdyskies.com