Two Journeys

Tim O'Brien

Sugar Hill Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Former International Bluegrass Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year Tim O'Brien has had a long and varied career. A former member of the great bluegrass group Hot Rize, Tim has recorded solo since that group's dissolution in 1990. He is now firmly a member of the Artists I Can't Quite Quantify; like John Cowan, Maura O'Connell, Shawn Mullins, and Dan Fogleberg, he's now decided he's going to record whatever the hell he wants and genre be damned. (Good for him.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

O'Brien's latest effort, Two Journeys, is listed as 'an ongoing celebration of the shared heritage between the USA and Ireland'. OK, that makes some sense. But don't assume this is the latest Celtic retread, or Riverdance with banjos. Far from it; O'Brien's work is mature, excellent, and shows an intelligent grasp of what exactly that heritage is.

"Mick Ryan's Lament", for example, isn't about the bar being out of Guinness -- but a tribute and a story about the Irish nationals who marched with both the Union Army in the American Civil War and Custer and Sheridan in the military actions against the Native Americans in the late 1800s. "For The Fallen" is a dirge for all those who have died in senseless bombings in the twentieth century, including -- but not limited to -- the numberless dead in Northern Ireland. Traditional songs like "Demon Lover" and "What Does The Deep Sea Say?" share space with "Norwegian Wood", in honor of the strong Irish heritage of the Beatles' home Liverpool. Needless to say, this is a complex, textured work, not easily assimilated.

But it's worth it. O'Brien is brilliant, and the musicianship on this CD is peerless. Production and engineering are without flaw -- fact is, I know sometimes I sound like a damn publicist for Sugar Hill Records, but I can't recall ever having heard a bad-sounding CD from them. O'Brien's backing band is excellent, and guest appearances by Karan Casey and Maura O'Connell round out the record nicely. This is, as close as one can come, flawlessly performed and recorded. The song choice is idiosyncratic, but it works. (Even the Cajun tune "Deux Voyages", included because of the shared Celtic heritage of the Acadian people, works.)

Two Journeys is a journey worth taking. Don't miss it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sugar Hill Records, and is used for informational purposes only.