NEW ALBUM 'HE WALKED ON' OUT TODAY, JUNE 25, 2021
"He Walked On continues O’Brien’s journey as an Americana multi-instrumentalist and troubadour who not only cares deeply about where we are as a culture and a nation, but who also has proven that he can walk the walk.” - No Depression
"The project is about what you need to do to survive in America," says Tim O'Brien, about his latest album, He Walked On, out now on Howdy Skies. Through its bakers' dozen tunes, eight new originals and five covers, He Walked On is an expansive portrayal of the nation from its beginnings to the present day through a series of musical snapshots, each training its lens from a different angle: humor, humanity, solidarity, grace.
Produced by Tim, the album was recorded in October 2020 – January 2021 in Nashville with the core band of Mike Bub (bass), Pete Abbott (drums), and Tim on vocals, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, mandola and mandocello, you name it.
Listen to Tim's CD by streaming or downloading on your favorite music outlets. (https://open.spotify.com/album/1gXwOtD1sj3fGXROIgtAUa?si=_VqApmgSR4qPkv5...)
The physical copy is available, too at www.timobrien.net.
A new video for the title song is available on you tube. https://youtu.be/AJIUtiIqIL8 Filmed on the streets of Nashville, the video is a tribute to Tim’s friend and longtime supporter, Earl JT Gray, owner of the great Station Inn.
The album opener, "When You Pray (Move Your Feet)" takes its title from the African proverb that was a favorite of the late Civil Rights hero Congressman John Lewis. "Can You See Me, Sister?" explores, through an imagined encounter between two of Thomas Jefferson's children with the enslaved woman Sally Hemings.
With "We're In The Same Boat, Brother," written by "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" lyricist Yip Harburg, O'Brien reaches back nearly 80 years for a call to solidarity that still feels timely. The disc image for He Walked On is an American nickel, the slogan E Pluribus Unum – "out of many, one" – prominent on top: these songs, together, make up a picture of who we are.
"You talk about the music, where would we be in America if we didn't have this mix of people from Africa and Europe and Native Americans," says Tim. "We're family, but we're estranged, and we've never learned to be family in so many ways. And it's crazy, and we're still suffering from that. If you read James Baldwin – America's insane. And until we figure out how to actually deal with reality here, we're just going to stay insane."
Other highlights include the Latin-tinged "El Comedor," co-written with O'Brien's fiancée Jan Fabricius, reflects on time the couple spent last year at the Mexican border near Tucson, visiting with a grassroots humanitarian group that offered water and food to hopeful immigrants waiting for asylum.
The stark, solemn banjo cut "Five Miles In and One Mile Down," a tune by the Texas songsmith Dale Keys, indicts the neglect and greed that led to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010, in O'Brien's home state of Virginia, where 29 miners died. It resonates again in the wake of 2020, when so many workers were put squarely in harm's way of a deadly virus in service of someone else's dollar. His cover of "That's How Every Empire Falls," written by R.B. Morris and more famously recorded by John Prine, is a loving tribute to the latter, O'Brien's friend who died of COVID – and also, with its theme of responsibility to our fellow man.
"When you sing something, it kind of sneaks in, in that music is a powerful medium," O'Brien says. "It's a language that's mysterious on its own – it tugs on the emotions. It grabs people's attention in a certain way and prepares them to hear things, and music kind of draws people together."
Confirmed Tour Dates (More to be announced)
+ = Tim O’Brien Band
* = w/ Jan Fabricius
July 9 Baltimore, MD Creative Alliance at the Patterson +
July 10 Mount Solon, VA Red Wing Roots Festival +
July 23 Lyons, CO Rockygrass +
July 24 Dillon, CO American Music Legacy Festival +
August 20 Columbus, OH Natalie’s Grandview *
August 21 Parkersburg, WV Parkersburg Homecoming Festival *
September 4 Pagosa Springs, CO Four Corners Folk Festival +
October 7 Johnson City, TN The Down Home +
October 9 Decatur, GA Eddie’s Attic +
October 10 Asheville, NC The Grey Eagle +
October 13 Mission Woods, KS Rose Hall *
October 17 Belle Plaine, KS Tree House Concerts at the Bartlett Arboretum *
About Tim O’Brien
Born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1954, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter (and West Virginia Music Hall of Famer) absorbed a broad range of American music growing up, from country and rockabilly icons like Jerry Reed and Jerry Lee Lewis backed by local ringers at the famous Grand Ole Opry-style Wheeling Radio Jamboree to Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Dave Brubeck at summer concerts in the part. His parents had season tickets to the Wheeling Symphony and brought along the young O'Brien and his sister Mollie, who would become his first bandmate; they also saw Ray Charles and the Beatles when they came through town. O'Brien took it all in, but something clicked when he first caught Doc Watson on TV as a teenager: that versatility, and the distillation of so much into the framework of traditional sounds, would be one of his biggest inspirations.
O'Brien found a simpatico musical community in Boulder, Colorado, where he moved in 1974 and became a leading figure in the world of contemporary or progressive bluegrass – most notably in the quartet Hot Rize, which toured nationally over its 40-year tenure and earned a Grammy nomination for its 1989 album "Take it Home." In the mid-'90s, O'Brien decamped to Nashville, where he became a first-call mandolin, guitar, fiddle and banjo player on Music City sessions, and collaborated with artists like Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson and Dan Auerbach; Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks cut his compositions, and in 2015 he won a Grammy as a member of the bluegrass supergroup the Earls of Leicester. In 2005, O’Brien won a Grammy for his album, Fiddler’s Green.
Howdy Skies Record, Inc. 2021