Born in Wheeling, West Virginia on March 16, 1954, Grammy winning singer songwriter and multi instrumentalist Tim O’Brien grew up singing in church and in school, and after seeing Doc Watson on TV, became a lifelong devotee of old time and bluegrass music. Tim first toured nationally in the 1980’s with Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize. Kathy Mattea scored a country hit with his song Walk The Way The Wind Blows in 1986, and soon more artists like Nickel Creek and Garth Brooks covered his songs. Over the years, Tim has released 15 solo CD’s, as well as collaborations with his sister Mollie O’Brien, songwriter Darrell Scott, and noted old time musician Dirk Powell. He’s performed or recorded with Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler, Bill Frisell, and Steve Martin, and produced records for Yonder Mountain Stringband, David Bromberg, and Canada’s Old Man Luedecke.
A new Tim O’Brien release comes out Mid March, featuring the five piece acoustic lineup of Tim on vocals, guitar, mandolin and fiddle, Mike Bub bass and vocals, Shad Cobb fiddle, Jan Fabricius vocals, and Patrick Sauber banjo, guitar and vocals. The new recording features five O’Brien originals, including co writes with Shawn Camp, Dan Auerbach, and Jan Fabricius, plus songs by old friends Norman Blake, Hal Cannon, J.D. Hutchison, and Dirk Powell. Rounding out the song list are a Washboard Sam blues turned bluegrass (Diggin’ My Potatoes), traditional pieces learned from Kevin Burke and Jeff Davis, and a Woody Guthrie standard, (Pastures of Plenty).
While Tim has walked many musical paths in his career from singer songwriter and honky tonk crooner to Celtic troubadour and old time cultivator he takes a couple steps into the bluegrass mainstream here.
“Our lineup is classic bluegrass, but these folks play in any style you want, so we can reach pretty deep in my song bag when it’s called for.”
O’Brien adds that each band member brings their own personality.
“Patrick is a world class five string expert who also channels some Clarence White sounds when he picks up a guitar. Bub is an old standby and has played with me off and on over the past twenty years. Jan and I used to just sing around the house, but now she’s on the recordings and on stage and makes us look better too. Shad is a fiddle hero with his own expressive style and I love playing second fiddle with him now and then.” Known in bluegrass circles for his mandolin playing, Tim concentrates on guitar in this setting saying, “It’s been really fun because I started in bluegrass as a guitar player 45 years ago, and now I try to ape my early heroes like Lester Flatt and Larry Sparks.”
Other notable O’Brien recordings include the bluegrass Dylan covers of Red On Blonde, the Celtic-Appalachian fusion of The Crossing, and the Grammy winning folk of Fiddler’s Green. O’Brien formed his own record label, Howdy Skies Records, in 1999, and launched the digital download label Short Order Sessions (SOS) with his partner Jan Fabricius in 2015 who also sings on stage with Tim. He has two sons, Jackson and Joel, and has lived in Nashville since 1996. Hobbies include cooking, skiing, and playing traditional Irish music.