Superstar Tim O’Brien has had one of the most amazing music careers. A founding member of Hot Rize, his place in bluegrass music is secure, and his individual achievements include such standout releases as the brilliant Odd Man In, his stellar take on Bob Dylan with Red On Blonde, his Celticinfused The Crossing, and his brilliant performance with Robert Redford in Out Of Africa (oh wait, that might have been Meryl Streep). Anyway, it’s hard to think of a performer in the last thirty years who’s been more influential or delivered more great performances than Tim (Ms. Streep notwithstanding).
On his new release, Chicken & Egg, he follows his musical muse hither and yon, ranging from folk, Celtic, bluegrass, and modern acoustic across a style that embraces his entire musical span. Filling the role vacated by his friend, the late John Hartford, Tim provides his own take on contemporary mores and issues on tunes such as “You Ate The Apple,” “Workin’,” and “No Way To Stop The Flow.” Great wit, wisdom, and wordplay dominate.
Taking a serious turn, Tim renders the haunting “Letter In The Mail,” coauthored with John Hadley as a somber take on the passages in life. In a similar vein, “Mother Mary” written with Dixie Chick Martie Maguire focuses on the pain of loss and the difficulty of recovery.
As always, Tim surrounds himself with some of the world’s top musicians. Bryan Sutton, Dennis Crouch, Stuart Duncan, Darrell Scott, Abigail Washburn, Mike Bub, Sarah Jarosz, Charlie Cushman, just to name a few, fill out a super list of fine players. Great music all around here, as expected. Chicken & Egg displays virtually every facet of Tim O’Brien’s musical persona. Filled with brilliant original tunes, Tim’s languid and lustrous vocal delivery backed by a host of great musicians with topnotch material, this is one of the year’s best releases. And next summer, look for Tim to star in the blockbuster sequel, Raging Bull II (wait, I think that might be Robert DeNiro). Better just buy Chicken & Egg and enjoy it to be safe. (Howdy Skies Records, P.O. Box 120215, Nashville, TN 37212, www.timobrien.net.) DJM