When No One's Around

Tim O'Brien

Bluegrass Now, April 98

Kick Me When I'm Down; River of Blood; One Drop of Rain; When You Come Back Down; Out on the Rolling Sea; I Like the Way you Cook; How Come I Ain't Dead; Love and Laughter; Love is Pleasin'; Think About Last Night; Don't Be Surprised; First Days of Fall; When No One's Around

Tim O'Brien's latest release on Sugar Hill is another great effort which won't disappoint. Of course, nothing about Tim O'Brien disappoints me. I find his massive talent to be underestimated by many. He deserves much recognition for his contributions, and I hope his career can take the next step, hopefully gaining the monetary rewards that he deserves.

The CD starts out with a great down-and-out song called "Kick Me When I'm Down." Tim makes you feel like you're that guy, and also has you wishing you were part of the song. Like many of the tunes on this CD, there is a bluesy, relaxed beat that gets you in the groove and makes you feel good. That's another symptom of Tim's music: Even when the songs are sad, you feel better and you feel like you've experienced something new. My personal favorite is "How Come I Ain't Dead." It pokes fun at the cliché, "I can't live without you." In other words, if I can't live without you, how come I ain't dead? There are a handful of more emotional songs on the CD that are delivered with feeling and a variety of tasteful instrumentation. Also, Tim includes the lyrics on the inside cover which will have you singing along and learning these songs. He makes you feel welcome to sing along and be part of the music. There are many hidden sides to his talent, and that's one of them.

Jerry Douglas produced this project and adds more good things to his impressive resume. He also plays on the CD but is content in a supporting role. The rest of the supporting cast of musicians do a great job and don't overplay. The backup singers, including John Cowan, Tracy Nelson, Isaac Freeman and Andrea Zonn, add a lot of presence.

When No One's Around has some great stuff on it. It has all the elements of a wonderful CD with lots of variety and is nothing short of what you'd expect from Tim. When you first listen to this album, it will only be the first of many spins.