Last October Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott released We’re Usually A Lot Better Than This, a live album with tracks from concerts in 2005 and 2006. In my review of that release, I wrote, “This is a really good folk album, and these guys clearly need to do more recordings together.” Well, good news: They have a new album coming out this month. Titled Memories And Moments, the new one is a studio album, and includes mostly originals, though with a few well-chosen covers and one very special guest.
I love this kind of intimate, even occasionally rough-sounding folk music. It feels like it was captured live on some porch somewhere rather than in any kind of sterile studio environment. It feels real, you know? This feels like these two excellent musicians are playing their hearts out just for the joy of it, and someone just happened to record it.
Both Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott are excellent musicians and songwriters. But they can also sing the hell out of a tune. Check out the chorus of “Brother Wind,” where their vocals sound so great and sweet together. And in “Angel’s Blue Eyes,” they sing, “Give me something to believe in/When this world turns dark and cold/Tell me sunlight’s shining somewhere.”
“Time To Talk To Joseph”
The album opens with “Time To Talk To Joseph,” which has a great raw folk, bluegrass sound. The instrumental intro is wonderful, and I also dig the instrumental section toward the end. I also love how their voices work together – loosely, like just a bit off, which adds to the impromptu tone and feel of the tune, as opposed to being over-rehearsed. “Don’t you worry about me, darling/I’m coming back again/My spirit will be stronger from a power deep within.” “Time To Talk To Joseph” was written by Tim O’Brien.
“It All Comes Down To Love”
“It All Comes Down To Love” is one of my favorites. It opens with the line, “Well, the thing about a dead-end road, for a while it’s easy to follow.” Then: “Well, the thing about a love gone wrong, inside goes where outside once was/Here I sit with a bucket of songs that no one else will sing.” Nice, eh? There is something intimate about the sound of this one too, like they’re playing in your living room. Oh man, I have to imagine these guys would put on one hell of a good house concert. Again, I love the instrumental sections. There is a joy in their playing. And I dig this line: “The thing about a broken heart, the remedy is the same as the breaking.” After all, as the title tells us, “It all comes down to love.” This rings so true to me these days.
“Keep Your Dirty Lights On”
“Keep Your Dirty Lights On” begins with a bit of vocal play and guitar. “Oh, play that blue guitar, boy.” Then the lyrics begin a cappella before that great loose, bluesy guitar comes back in. This one has the feel of being a great old traditional tune, but was actually written by O’Brien and Scott, the only track on this release that they wrote together. This is a very cool tune, and is another of my favorites.
“Memories And Moments”
“Memories And Moments,” this CD’s title track, which was written by Scott, features some nice work on fiddle between verses. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I try so hard to be at peace/To still my mind, catch and release/From walking tall to on my knees/It’s these memories and moments.” There is a nice section where the lines are echoed. And I really like this line: “She hears the words he never said in her memories and moments.”
This album includes a really wonderful, moving cover of John Prine’s “Paradise,” helped greatly of course by John Prine’s presence on vocals and guitar. The vocals sound perfect on this track. “Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking.” There is also some pretty work on fiddle, adding to the great sad tone of the song. (This song was originally on John Prine's 1971 self-titled debut album.)
Covers of George Jones and Hank Williams
There are two other covers on the album. The first is “Just One More,” by George Jones. It begins with Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott singing a cappella, their vocals blending gorgeously. “One more drink of wine/And if you’re still on my mind/One drink, just one more, and then another.” Oh yes, drinking to get a girl off your mind. It seems like it should work, but it never does.
The other cover, Hank Williams’ “Alone And Forsaken” also begins a cappella, and this track is really about the vocals, with the guitar coming in quietly beneath them. The guitar then gets louder, and this rendition has a great, understated raw power. Though it’s the vocals that mainly give this song its power, there is a nice instrumental section. This track is just beautiful.
“You Don’t Own Me”
“You Don’t Me” opens with the lines, “You don’t own me/I just let you treat me like you do.” Then: “Someday I’ll break away from you.” Yes, this is one of those great, twisted bluegrass relationships. And it makes for a great song, one of my favorites from this release. This one also has one of the best instrumental sections on this CD.
Memories And Moments ends with the pretty “On Life’s Other Side,” this one featuring piano. Their vocals rise high above the piano on the chorus. This song, and thus the album, ends with the lines, “We’ll walk with each other with nothing to hide/Every sorrow a memory on life’s other side.”
CD Track List
- Time To Talk To Joseph
- It All Comes Down To Love
- Keep Your Dirty Lights On
- Brother Wind
- Memories And Moments
- Just One More
- Fiddler Jones
- The Well
- Alone And Forsaken
- You Don’t Own Me
- Angel’s Blue Eyes
- Free Again
- On Life’s Other Side
Memories And Moments is scheduled to be released on September 17, 2013 on Full Skies Records.