Renowned duo with folk roots play at Strings
February 13, 2014
They will be performing Friday night at the Strings Music Pavilion.
Steamboat Springs — After about 13 years apart, renowned musicians Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott have joined together again for a tour and a new album, "Memories and Moments."
They will play at the Strings Music Pavilion at 7:30 Friday.
"On one hand, we are opposites," O'Brien said. He comes from more of a traditional bluegrass/folk/Irish background, while Scott comes from a strong backdrop of songwriting, rock and country.
In addition to being accomplished vocalists, both play multiple instruments and share an affinity for the mandolin, guitar and banjo.
On "Memories and Moments," their captivating vocal harmony features O'Brien on fiddle and mandolin and Scott on guitar and piano.
A renowned songwriter, Scott's songs have been recorded by Sam Bush, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley and Keb' Mo', among numerous other artists.
Garth Brooks has recorded O'Brien's songs, as have many others, including Nickel Creek. The Dixie Chicks and Kathy Mattea have recorded songs by both musicians.
"We meet at Honky Tonk country," O'Brien said.
It was during their first gig together in Europe in 1998 that the magic of their union sparked, O'Brien said.
"I realized we knew a lot of the same stuff," he said. "The separateness went away in about two gigs."
Describing the partnership as "liberating," O'Brien said they found singing together to be really easy. "He's responsive to me, and I'm able to respond to him."
In 2000, the pair recorded their first studio album, "Real Time."
"We are different people, but together, it works," O'Brien said. And the music "greatly expands when we get together."
The two recently returned from a trip to England, Scotland and Ireland.
O'Brien said the opportunity to play with musicians across the pond broadened their insight into music that shares a history.
They get "two views of music — and of humanity, culture and traditions. We're all part of the same evolution of humanity, and the songs reflect that," O'Brien said. "That's what I love about traditional music — you step onto the turf of ancestors. Time goes away, and you kind of get back to the basic things."
On the new album, O'Brien and Scott contributed five songs each. They also cover Hank Williams, George Jones and John Prine.
They collaborated on "Turn Your Dirty Lights On," which O'Brien calls a stand for environmentalism and a new song that parallels themes of old.
Both he and Scott grew up in mining country and have seen the lasting effects of mining on both the people and the land, especially mountaintop removal mining. "It's all about outlining what people experience. A lot of the issues are the same, with different details."
In "Turn Your Dirty Lights On," the pair sings, "Every time they have an election, they talk about how coal is clean. Well coal is cheaper, coal's still black, it ain't never turning green."
In their time apart, both artists have been busy. Before they decided to reunite, O'Brien was working with Mark Knopfler, and Scott with Robert Plant.
Knopfler described O'Brien as "a master of American folk music, Irish music, Scottish music — it doesn't matter; a fine songwriter and one of my favorite singers."
A story in a 2011 edition of Tufts Magazine said Scott "may be the greatest country music star you've never heard of."
In 2005, O'Brien won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for "Fiddler's Green."
For O'Brien, Colorado is where it all started. He moved to Colorado from his childhood home in West Virginia in 1974, and, "Whenever I go back it's like a reunion."
Scott was born in Kentucky, and both musicians live in Nashville.
O'Brien said Colorado remains a place where new musicians can find their foothold. "There's an open-mindedness and enthusiasm about all kinds of music," he said.
In the 1970s, O'Brien was on the ground floor of the music and the movement out of which the Telluride Bluegrass Festival — which last year celebrated its 40th year — was born.
O'Brien said that each generation brings something new to bluegrass. "They look back but look forward at the same time."
Their show in Steamboat is about entertainment, but also about community, bringing people together and a chance to slow down and reflect, O'Brien said.
On playing on Valentine's Day, O'Brien said that "We'll try to get some nice pretty love songs in there. But there's gonna be some hurtin' songs for sure. There's more unrequited love songs than requited love songs out there."
The show is about entertainment, but also about community, bringing people together, and a chance to slow down and reflect, O'Brien said. He said that the show will be interactive. "We will go somewhere together."
He said the show will be interactive. "We will go somewhere together," he added.
Lovers will find romance in a song on the new album that Scott wrote for his wife, Angela, O'Brien said.
Appropriate to Friday night’s venue, in "Angel's Blue Eyes," they sing, "With winter's blanket freezing all around us, I'll be there, babe, to hold you near. Give me something to be believe in, when this world turns dark and cold. Tell me sunlight's shining somewhere, dreams are bought but never sold. Give me love in abundance, give me love that never dies. There's no light in all creation like the light in my angel's blue eyes."
Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $40 and are available online at http://www.stringsmusicfestival.com or by calling 970-879-5056.