West Virginia native Tim O'Brien's association with "Mountain Stage" dates to the program's earliest days. In 1984 he appeared as a member of the influential bluegrass group Hot Rize, and its alter ego Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, who helped give the fledgling show a national presence. Since then O'Brien has continued to visit "Mountain Stage" in nearly every musical formation he has been a part of.
In his most recent appearance, O'Brien's touring band includes some of Nashville's finest bluegrass musicians, most of whom have been off-and-on collaborators for decades. The member's collective chemistry was apparent in this set and can be heard throughout the group's 2019 release, Tim O'Brien Band.
The band opens with a spry, up-tempo rendering of "High Flying Bird," written by another native West Virginian, and fellow WV Music Hall of Fame member, Billy Edd Wheeler, who O'Brien notes was in attendance. The band's control sounds effortless with fills and solos passed between Cory Walker on banjo and Shad Cobb on fiddle, all in step and propelled by bassist Mike Bub.
"Beyond," a co-write with Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Shawn Camp, has a Celtic feel and a message that comes with the wisdom of age and decades of touring. "Wind," written by Utah songwriter Hal Cannon, is a minor-keyed gem, with an intricate solo section and O'Brien's partner Jan Fabricius adding harmonies. "Amazing Love," a sweet 'n' simple love song co-written with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, makes for the perfect husband-and-wife duet.
O'Brien has long immersed himself in all facets of roots music, evidenced in this set by a re-working of a forgotten Big Bill Broonzy tune, "Diggin' My Potatoes," written by Memphis Minnie. O'Brien gives it a new coat of paint, turning it into a tune that, with solos all around, should become an acoustic music staple.
The Tim O'Brien Band will be busy this summer, including an appearance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, Red Wing Roots Festival in July, and the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival in Alberta, Canada in August.
- "High Flyin' Bird"
- "Doney Gal"
- "Amazing Love"
- "Diggin' My Potatoes"