The September 17 release of Memories & Moments, is the second studio album from highly regarded writer/singer/multi-instrumentalists Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, released on their newly formed Full Skies imprint, a compound of O’Brien’s Howdy Skies and Scott’s Full Light labels. Comprising five songs apiece from O’Brien and Scott plus one memorable collaboration in their timely “Turn Your Dirty Lights On,” along with a pair of chestnuts from Hank Williams and George Jones and a spirited rendition of the John Prine classic “Paradise,” with its author guesting on guitar and vocals, Memories & Moments is a face-to-face record by design.
“Our strength is playing in the moment,” says Scott, “so if you record that way, with us across from each other, leaking into each other’s mics, there’s an immediacy to it that translates to the listener. That’s our hope, anyway.”
“We wanted to keep that intimate feeling,” O’Brien adds. “It’s rare that you can play with somebody who can respond and magnify like Darrell does. So except for the one track, this record is just the two of us reacting to one another, and it’s a pretty good game of Ping-Pong. We end up doing stuff that neither of us would do on our own, and that’s pretty cool.”
Back in 2000, the two kindred spirits had joined forces to record the deep and scintillating Real Time, which was widely acclaimed on release and has since become recognized as a towering achievement in Americana annals. Following that album O’Brien and Scott became an in-demand touring act, hitting the road together whenever their schedules allowed. (Performances from shows in 2005 and 2006 were gathered on Live: We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This, released last year on Scott’s Full Light as a way of whetting fans’ appetites for the upcoming studio album.) Over the ensuing years, each has been asked incessantly when their paths would next cross. Indeed, the prospect of a Real Time Redux has come to take on an almost mythic significance in roots-music circles — the down-home equivalent of a Led Zeppelin reunion.
Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Scott has collaborated with the likes of Steve Earle, Sam Bush, Guy Clark, Mary Gauthier and others. In recent years he has been a member of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy. The Kentucky native won the 2007 “Song of the Year” award from the Americana Music Association for his song “Hank Williams’ Ghost” from his 2006 album The Invisible Man. His latest solo album is Long Ride Home, released in 2012.
Country and bluegrass musician O’Brien has more than 13 solo albums to his credit, in addition to a duet single with Kathy Mattea titled “Battle Hymn of Love” that charted #9 on Billboard’s Country singles chart in 1990. He’s also recorded four albums with his sister Mollie, the latest of which is Reincarnation: The Songs of Roger Miller. In the ’80s, he recorded seven albums with Nick Forster in the band Hot Rize, which won repeated awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. After the group disbanded in 1990, O’Brien signed a solo deal with Sugar Hill Records and released Odd Man In. The Grammy winner (Best Traditional Folk, 2005) has also played and recorded with Mark Knopfler, Steve Martin, Steve Earle and more.
Scott and O’Brien met while in the lobby of a music publishing company in Nashville 15 years ago. “Putting strangers into a room to ‘create art’ (write songs) is normal practice among publishing companies,” explains Scott. “We came up with a song and it went on Tim’s next record. A few months later, we wrote another that went on Garth Brooks’ next record. Tim bought a van with his money — I remodeled the kitchen with mine.”
They actually first performed together at a “pickin’ party” thrown by bluegrass legend Sam Bush. It worked so well that they booked a European tour together. “No rehearsals,” Scott notes, “just get up on stage and go cat go!”