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Fiddler's Green

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Album Review

In the early fall of 2005, Tim O'Brien simultaneously released two albums, Cornbread Nation and Fiddler's Green, on Sugar Hill. And while both dig deep into the fabric of American roots music, the albums also revealed O'Brien's split musical personality, a split that dates back to his work with Hot Rize/Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers during the 1980s. Fiddler's Green gives birth to the more conservative side of his neo-traditional core while still allowing him to delve into Celtic and Appalachian folk, bluegrass, and old-timey. Much of the material here, as on Cornbread Nation, is traditional, featuring well-worn icons like "Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden" and "Buffalo Skinners." As one might guess, the arrangements are fairly low-key, featuring simple banjo/guitar/mandolin setups with a few odds and ends — bouzouki, flutes, and percussion — thrown in to keep things interesting. The performances on Fiddler's Green are well wrought but, perhaps because of the conservative nature of the project, a bit stolid. "Buffalo Skinners" proceeds at a steady pace for over five minutes, and O'Brien, despite his fine vocal, really doesn't bring anything new to this Western saga. This is far different than his radical reworking of "Little Sadie" on 2000's Real Time with Darrell Scott. Oddly, some of the liveliest tracks, "Train on the Island" and Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain," don't surface until the last third of the album. Fans will more than likely find Fiddler's Green enjoyable if not revelatory, while skeptics will wonder if O'Brien should've taken the best cuts from both releases and made one great album. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi


Born: March 16, 1954 in Wheeling, WV

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Tim O'Brien is one of the spearheads of contemporary bluegrass. As co- founder and lead vocalist of Hot Rize and Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers, O'Brien served as a bridge between the traditional sounds of the hill country and the modern styles of bluegrass in the 1980s. Since the band's breakup, O'Brien has continued to expand the music's borders as a soloist, a duo partner with his sister Mollie, and with his band, the O'Boys. O'Brien's songs have additionally been recorded by Kathy Mattea, the...
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Fiddler's Green, Tim O'Brien
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