Cup Of Sugar
Since the days of his youth, Tim O’Brien has sought out the open road of roots music with an open mind. After leaving is home in Wheeling, West Virginia in the 1970s to explore the west of America in old used cars and by thumbing to California, he eventually landed in Colorado where he made his musical bones by joining the Ophelia Swing Band and then Hot Rize, with the latter group becoming the first-ever IBMA “Entertainer of the Year” Award winner in 1990. Eventually, O’Brien moved to Nashville where he has recorded a fine array of solo albums.
What is cool about O’Brien’s solo work is his desire to take roots music to unique places, and to reflect modern times as well as pay homage to the past. His song about the smartphone phenomena of the “Phantom Phone Call” was brilliant and reflects his desire to be truly original. That also goes for his wonderful new album called Cup Of Sugar.
I was hooked on this project from the first song, which is called “Bear.” If you have ever experienced our furry and wild friends in the woods, whether it be in Colorado or in the Appalachian Mountains of the east, you will instantly relate to this upbeat and rollicking song, with lyrics that say, “Wood chips and stumps, where the trees had been, piles of rocks and logs, so they’re building again, He growled, ‘This world’s gone crazy, trying to close me in, I need more room to move,’ then he reared back and roared again.”
O’Brien is joined on this album by Shad Cobb, Cory Walker, Jan Fabricius, Mike Bub and a host of studio aces. Other highlights on this album include a straight-ahead bluegrass song with Del McCoury called “Let The Horses Run,” a fun song about fishing from the underwater viewpoint with “Thinkin’ Like A Fish,” and a story about hard-to-deal-with neighbors with “Cup Of Sugar.” Actually, every cut on this excellent album tells its own story, with O’Brien’s imagination and songcraft still kickin’ it at a high level, and that is impressive.