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Tim O'Brien

Chicken & Egg – 2010 (Howdy Skies)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien has covered a lot of musical territory over the last 30 years, leaving behind footprints in the form of some two dozen-plus albums encompassing his work with the neo-traditionalist Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize, duets with sister Mollie, numerous guest appearances and, now, more than a dozen solo releases. (O'Brien continues to deny any connection with or resemblance to cult honky-tonk legend Red Knuckles).

A gifted songwriter, O'Brien has his fingerprints on 10 or the 14 cuts, including music added to a Woody Guthrie lyric, The Sun Jumped Up and sets an upbeat, though somewhat wry tone with the opening track, You Ate The Apple. A superlative instrumentalist and arranger, he's got an A-list Nashville cast that includes Stuart Duncan and Bryan Sutton to help work in themes that range from bluegrass through rockabilly, sprinkled with touches of old time, swing, blues and Celtic.

Mostly though, O'Brien remains among the most accessible and rewarding vocalists around. Where many performers think of themselves as "stylists", O'Brien has the rare gift of singing conversationally, as if he's sitting on the next stool telling you a good story.