Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tim O'Brien at Club Passim

On Wednesday, June 13th we did our Club Passim routine: met for drinks across the street and then showed up in the Club around 7:00 for the 8:00 show.  This time we'd been able to get tickets for table 10, right in front of the stage.  Ordered the same old vegan food (which came late, they must have screwed up our orders ... how hard can it be when they've had the same menu for 27 years?) and had a nice talk with table-mates and with Cousin Kate, who was at one of the front tables herself.  Also talked with the opening act, Rod Picott (, in the bathroom line.

Rod came on and played several of the excellent songs from his latest record, Welding Burns, such as the  title track, Rust Belt Fields, and our favorite, Your Father's Tattoo.  As he pointed out, he really doesn't do any happy songs, most of them are a film noir movie at their most optimistic.  But that's the blues for you ... he's a great guy and an excellent singer and he's from Maine.

After a short break Tim came on and proceeded to blow us all away.  He's only one of the best musicians in the world and is a hard working fount of all kinds of music.  I've seen him in 10 different combos over the years (12 if, as I've heard rumored, he's actually in Red Knuckles' band, though I find this hard to believe).  This time he played solo and alternated between the guitar, the bouzouki, and the fiddle.

Tim's most recent record is with his sister, Mollie, and both of their families doing a Roger Miller tribute.  He did several songs from that: In the Summertime and Hand For the Hog.  One of his first songs was a mini-tribute to Doc Watson ... doing one of Doc's most famous songs and trying as hard as he could to keep up with his memory (he grunted and gave himself a grade of 73 afterwards, then shrugged and grinned).  He commented that many times he'd picked up an old traditional song to do then realized "it had already been recorded by Doc Watson or the Grateful Dead."  He then picked up the bouzouki and followed this with a beautiful cover of Dylan's Lay Down Your Weary Tune, which he did so well it was like I was hearing it for the first time.

He did a song that he recorded *before* The Dead ever did it (well, Phil Lesh and Friends actually, with an excellent vocal by Teresa Williams, but I digress), Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning ... though Hot Tuna had done it way before either of them of course.  He also did Working On a Building, that I'd most recently heard done by the Cowboy Junkies and by Elizabeth Cook ... there's a varied trio of acts for you!  The point is that Tim revels in the folk/blues tradition and just by himself he can play the pants off most of them.

Other highlights were excellent renditions of Gonna Try To Make Her Stay, My Girl's Waiting For Me, and his poem to his father, Not Afraid O' Dyin' from his most recent solo record.  He picked up the fiddle and played a couple of tunes, including Jack Of Diamonds.  This is where Tim's genius is most astounding; many people play the fiddle and sing and do both very well, but he sings with and to the fiddle in a way that you have to see to understand.  He also did a great version of one of my favorite songs of his, Look Down That Lonesome Road.

A friend came up and accompanied Tim on guitar and harmonica for a couple of tunes, including the one song I thought I'd never hear him do ... but it's a Roger Miller song so he did it: Kansas City Star.  This was recorded by Red Knuckles long ago and it's made me grin for years and years.  Maybe he *did* play with Red Knuckles' band, though that would be weird.  Tim of course didn't leave the stage between his "last song" and "the encore" ... as he said, he didn't want to waste his time and ours by leaving the stage and then coming back.  And of course for a real last song he did his excellent version of King Of the Road that's all over the best radio stations these days.  Lots of fun was had by all!

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