Tim O'Brien,
Two Journeys
(Howdy Skies, 2001)

Tim O'Brien is a native of West Virginia but with a surname like that he naturally has roots firmly planted in Ireland. Not only that but he appears to regularly water those roots with visits to the Emerald Isle and nurtures his Celtic soul with some sparkling playing.

If this album had only one track and it was "Mick Ryan's Lament" I would be urging you to go out and pay whatever it cost. Taking the old tune "Garryowen" -- apparently beloved of General Custer, not to mention a hundred western movie scores -- O'Brien skillfully grafts on an excellent song. The history of emigration, Indian wars, the Civil War, cowboys and cavalry are expertly connected in a song that is haunting, true, thought-provoking and just a "bloody good song."

Tim is joined on the album by a plethora of top-class folk music idols and their presence lifts every track. Karan Casey -- I have heard her talked about but had yet to hear the voice -- joins him on vocals on a few tracks. Their combined voices work best on "The Demon Lover," a newish twist on the old theme that benefits from fabulous vocals.

"For the Fallen" would be taken as a tune of the Northern Ireland troubles if one did not read the liner notes. It's a very good song and, although it was written about Kosovo, it can be applied just as easily to other conflicts, underlining the quality of the words and O'Brien's writing.

Not all the tracks are new. "What Does the Deep Sea Say" is a track that has been around for many years but the rendition here is exquisite.

Anyone who reads my reviews will know that I always have a quibble and on this CD it has to be "Me and Dirk's Trip to Ireland." Funny tracks on records are always seen to indicate how the artists are enjoying the experience. Unfortunately most are less than hilarious and this is one such example. It is amusing on first hearing but will probably be skipped in future listening.

Since De Danaan featured "Let It Be" on an album, Lennon & McCartney songs have found new life with Celtic interpretation by many artists -- maybe their Liverpool blood retained the gene. "Norwegian Wood" gets the treatment on this CD and it sounds great.

The liner notes are excellent on this CD but you need to log on to Tim's website for the lyrics.

As I said "Mick Ryan's Lament" is worth the full price of this album so if you purchase you get a rake of bonus tracks -- all great except for that quibble.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 14 December 2001

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