Review by Steven Stone
Click here to e-mail reviewer
CD Stock Number: Howdy Skies Records
Tim O'Brien mentioned in a recent interview that his next release would be more of a "songwriter" CD. Instead his latest,
Two Journeys, is an extension of his last album The Crossing which drank deep from his Irish background for its musical inspiration.
Two Journeys also shows the strong influence of Mother Ireland in not only in its songs but personnel. Maura O'Connell, Louise Kelly, Karen Casey, Paddy
Keenen, Kevin Burke, and John Williams are all Irish roots musicians, or musicians with Irish roots who participate on
To discover what constitutes an Irish musical influence you have merely to listen to Tim's rendition of Paul McCartney's "Norwegian Wood." Beginning with the Paddy Keenen's pipes introduction, followed by Tim's loping mandolin work, the tune is infused with a rich Celtic aroma that settles on you like the glow of a good single-malt whisky. Six of the fourteen cuts on
Two Journeys are Tim O'Brien originals, while five are Tim's arrangements of traditional material. His treatments of "Demon Lover" and "What Does the Deep Sea Say" are especially successful. Both possess a paradoxical combination of the diametrically opposed influences of tradition and innovation. They are familiar, yet alien incased in Tim's Celtic arrangements, like vintage wine in brand-new
"olde style" bottles.
Although it was principally recorded in Nashville at Groundstar studios, some tracks were done at "The Mill" in
Naas, County Kildare. The overall sonic effect is intimate and warm, like an old wool blanket. No matter how dense the mix, all the instruments can be heard, and they retain their original natural harmonic timbre.
Tim O'Brien has made a science of creating concept albums where the music is still superior to the unifying principle. His Dylan tribute
Red on Blonde is one of the best recordings of Dylan material not done by ol' Bob himself.
Two Journeys is similar in that it is a superlative album of Celtic music produced by a guy who is still principally a bluegrass musician. Perhaps Tim O'Brien really is Irish.
Sound Quality: 90