To say that "Wheels," the latest release from Dan Tyminski, has been a long time coming, would be a slight understatement. Unless an eight-year gap in between projects is considered quick. That is not to say that the bluegrasser has been sitting idle on the sidelines for so many years either.
Consider his regular gig as acoustic guitarist with Alison Krauss and doing a considerable amount of session work.
But the stars aligned for Tyminski - more properly the Dan Tyminski Band - in putting out "Wheels" on Rounder. And he has Krauss to thank more than anyone because of her decision to record "Raising Sand" with Robert Plant and launch a subsequent tour that started in the U.S. in April and continues into this fall.
"I've got to learn how to speed it up a little bit or something," Tyminski jokes in a telephone call from his Nashville-area home. "I had a window of opportunity...that I hadn't had in the last seven or eight years, so I was able to take advantage of some free time and get a record out there."
"When we found out that Alison was going to record the record with Robert, we thought what a cool thing to get to do and then to go out and tour with it. How do you not follow through with that? It's such a neat opportunity to tour with someone like that. It allowed me to follow up with a record that's been kind of in the works for the past seven or eight years. I was happy to get the time."
Dan Tyminski live at the Blender NYC
Tyminski's first album was "Carry Me Across the Mountain," out in 2000 on the Doobie Shea label, but that was only a break from Alison Krauss + Union Station (AKUS). Tyminski also gained a huge career boost from singing "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" in the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack for the Coen Brothers film as part of The Soggy Bottom Boys, a fictitious group.
"He certainly had the greatest opportunity in recent bluegrass history to go out on his own and decided not to do it at that point," says Rounder Records head Ken Irwin, referring to "O Brother" success. "If you think about all the other people you know who'll leave a band or a position at the drop of a hat and with much less going for them than Dan had, it's all the more interesting."
"Not everybody wants to be running a band, and people who have (done) it, some people might want to do it so they're making the decisions and not be the one decisions are being made about," says Irwin. "That was certainly not the case with AKUS. It's a great band. People certainly get along really well. People get a certain amount of flexibility. They travel well. It's a good situation."
Tyminski, a Vermont native, also cites family reasons as the reason for the long gap. "We tend to stay pretty busy even if the year's not filled with tour dates. Plus my kids are small, and I try to spend all the time I can with my family. But to have the thought of an entire year off..."
"We took a year off about three years ago. I got to spend a lot of time on the Little League field...The thought of another year without making music, I just couldn't do it."
"We had to put band together. We've been jokingly talking about touring for the past seven or eight years since the first album came out."
Tyminski recorded "Wheels" last fall. While his name is out front on the project, Tyminski actually considers the project to be the Dan Tyminski Band. "I had just been in line to do a solo record for a long time. I had agreed to do one more after we switched over for Rounder. It kind of turned to 'band' after I found this configuration of people. This was another one teetering on the fence. Do we call this a Dan Tyminski Band record or just Dan Tyminski? I don't know how it ended up just Dan Tyminski because it surely is a record that features a band."
"Once we booked the studio time, I toyed with idea of putting different combinations of people together like the last record," says Tyminski. "But once I realized that we were going to go out touring with this band, it made all the sense in the world to continue on and use the guys on everything."
The band members are not exactly lightweights either. Mandolinist Adam Steffey played with Krauss for 7 1/2 years and also played with the Lonesome River Band, The Isaacs and Mountain Heart. Bassist Barry Bales has been in Krauss' Union Station since 1990. Fiddle/Dobro player Justin Moses put in 3 years with Blue Moon Rising before becoming a founding member of Sierra Hull & Highway 111. Three decades-plus veteran Ron Stewart most recently did a six-year stint as fiddle man for J.D. Crowe and the New South.
Bales, Steffey and Stewart all played on "Carry Me Across the Mountain."
"I really like the same things about both bands," says Tyminski of his own band and Union Station. "I really like that I'm getting to play in a different configuration of people that I don't have to sacrifice the highest level of musicianship. It's really nice to play with people that you like and respect...Of course, getting to sing with Alison is a joy. Even after all these years, it's something I still cherish. I love her. I love her voice. It's a thrill to get to sing with her. That being said, the people I'm playing with in this configuration are just monsters. (They are) a bunch of people who have the big picture in mind and listen while they play."