Album Review: Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott — Memories and Moments

Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. | October 17th, 2013

timdarrellIn 2000, O’Brien and Scott got together to record the modern classic Real Time, which showcased their deft, canny songwriting as well as their deeply honed musical vision as steeped in mountain music and bluegrass as in country and rock and roll. On last year’s collection of live performances, We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This, O’Brien and Scott gave us a little taste of what we’d missed since their first album together, teasing us with the hope that they might get together to record another studio album. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for Memories and Moments to arrive. With five songs each from O’Brien and Scott, and inspired interpretations of songs by George Jones, John Prine, and Hank Williams, the album took only three days to record, and it illustrates the ways in which the duo seamlessly weaves their musical magic.

On the mournful and melancholy title track, Scott’s bouzouki and O’Brien’s fiddle weave in and around each other to create a crystalline mountain tune in which the singers reflects on the passing of time and the aches that accompany it: “I wish that I could hold you/ When day is done/ ‘Til this life is through/ But all I have to hold onto/ Are these memories and moments/ I try so hard/To be at peace/ To still my mind/ Catch and release/ From walking tall to on my knees/ It’s these memories and moments.” If you close your eyes on this one, you can imagine sitting with O’Brien and Scott on a front porch somewhere singing and playing. On his angry and sad coal country classic, “Paradise,” Prine joins the duo on guitar and vocals. The O’Brien-Scott co-write “Keep Your Dirty Lights On” kicks off with a Scott’s resonator guitar and a spare vocal in a protest of the can’t-live-with-it-can’t live-without-it ambivalence and hypocrisy of life in the coal country of Kentucky and West Virginia: “If you got money in your pocket and a switch on the wall/ We’ll keep your dirty lights on…every time they have elections they talk about coal bein’ clean/ Coal is cheap/ But coal’s still black/ It ain’t ever turnin’ green.” O’Brien’s somber and raw ballad, “Brother Wind,” captures the loneliness of life on the road where the wind blows you where it will. With a straight-ahead country delivery, O’Brien and Scott seize the high lonesome I-can’t-quit-you spirit of George Jones’ drinking-and-hurting song, “Just One More,” and in “Fiddler Jones,” which is reminiscent of Guy Clark’s “Nickel for the Fiddler” and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Uncle Teddy and His Dog Charlie,” O’Brien’s sparkling fiddle animates the tale of a fiddler who’s seen it all. On the album’s transcendent closing track, “On Life’s Other Side,” Scott takes the riff from the Carter Family’s “I Never Will Marry” and transforms it into a hymn that promises splendor in a land where we’ll “carry the weight of this old world no more/ We’ll walk with each other/ With nothing to hide/ Every sorrow a memory on life’s other side.”

O’Brien and Scott seldom disappoint on this long-hoped-for album, as they stand up and deliver energetic performances of hard-driving roots music as well as somber tales of love and loss.

4 Stars

Preview or purchase Memories and Moments

  1. Rick
    October 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I really like a lot of Tim O’Brien’s recorded output over the years. In stark contrast I really don’t care for Darrell Scott’s music at all, so when you combine the two it still winds up being something I just don’t care much for.

    There are just so many other music artists Tim could hook up with that would likely result in music I do really like! C’mon Tim it’s time to reunite The Wild Jimbos and then have you join and take charge of that band! (lol)

  2. Barry Mazor
    October 18, 2013 at 4:55 am

    Yes, Rick, How COULD Tim make this unexplainable choice not to stick strictly to music that you personally like? Obviously, he has distorted priorities.

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