Listen Up: Wednesday, October 05, 2005
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PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Tim O’Brien

Fiddler’s Green Cornbread Nation (Sugar Hill Records)

By Tom Geddie

On two c.d.’s released last month, three-time Grammy nominee Tim O’Brien explores a couple of places where traditional country and folk music thrive — and then some. “Fiddler’s Green” is an imagined heaven for sailors, a place filled with song, drink, and willing women. “Cornbread Nation” is less specific, encompassing the rural South and similar locales, and it’s not only the more successful disc, it is — as they say down here — pretty darn good, period.

True to folk tradition, O’Brien has his way with the songs’ arrangements, approaching them the way they’re supposed to be approached rather than as hands-off museum artifacts. He’s helped by the pedigreed musos who surround him and by being able to deftly handle several instruments himself.

Highlights include the six-minute gospel number “Moses”; built upon subtle percussion and a finely plucked banjo, it proceeds as steadily and unhurriedly as a winding dirt road. O’Brien’s take on “The Foggy Foggy Dew,” accented by slowly played tenor and baritone saxes, is a languid tale of the rather excitable idea of a one-night stand. Also on Cornbread Nation, O’Brien covers a couple of relatively recent tunes, including Harlan Howard’s “Busted” and Jimmie Rodgers’ “California Blues.”

Though Fiddler’s Green is not as strong as Cornbread, the best overall performance comes on the former. O’Brien’s solo-and-fiddle interpretation of the standard “A Few More Years” simply reaches out and grabs the listener, and — like the Grim Reaper himself — just doesn’t let go.


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