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Tim O'Brien (musician): Wikis


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Tim O'Brien

Background information
Birth name Timothy O'Brien
Born March 16, 1954 (1954-03-16) (age 55)
Origin Wheeling, West Virginia, USA
Genres Country
Occupations singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1973-present
Labels RCA
Sugar Hill
Associated acts Kathy Mattea
Hot Rize
Kris Drever
Website Official Website

Tim O'Brien (born March 16, 1954 in Wheeling, West Virginia) is a Grammy Award-winning American country and bluegrass musician. In addition to singing, he plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki and mandocello. To date, he has released more than ten studio albums, in addition to charting a duet with Kathy Mattea entitled "The Battle Hymn of Love", a #9 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts in 1990.



At the age of 12, he first heard a Bob Dylan record, played by his sister Mollie, afterwards deciding to take up music. Throughout his teens, he taught himself to play Guitar, violin, and mandolin.

As a kid of the 1950s he had his ears wide open to the country and bluegrass melting pot on the local WWVA show, as well as the Beatles on the radio.[1] In 1973, he dropped out of Colby College to pursue music professionally. He wrote to his mother at the time, saying,

I'm heading west. I know 200 songs now, and I figure if I keep learning more I should be all right.

He eventually moved to Boulder, Colorado in the 1970s and became part of the music scene there.

In Colorado he met guitarist Charles Sawtelle, banjoist Pete Wernick, and bassist/ vocalist Nick Forster, with whom he formed Hot Rize in 1978. Over the next twelve years, the quartet earned recognition as one of America's most innovative and entertaining bluegrass bands. Never straying too far from a traditional sound, Hot Rize stood out with fresh harmony singing, Wernick's melodic banjo playing, and O'Brien's easy-going rhythmic drive.

To broaden their repertoire, the members of Hot Rize would often split their show with a set of classic and offbeat country and western music in the comic guise of Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers.[1] The band would walk off stage, change clothes, and reappear as a different band (O'Brien assumed the mantle of "Red Knuckles"), with its own songs, fictional back story and odd costumes. Hot Rize was the International Bluegrass Music Association's first Entertainer of the Year in 1990, and in 1993, O'Brien took the IBMA's Male Vocalist of the Year honors.

In 1990, Hot Rize disbanded as a regular touring and recording band.

Tim O'Brien also authors at least one instructional video/DVD of mandolin and bazouki instruments.

Solo career

O'Brien, who had already recorded several albums without Hot Rize, embarked on a solo career. He briefly signed to RCA records, recording an album with them called "Odd Man In", before being dropped. Sugar Hill Records eventually released the album, and O'Brien has not signed to a major since. In 1990, O'Brien also charted along with Kathy Mattea on the duet "The Battle Hymn of Love", which peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts.[2]

In 2010, O'Brien featured prominently on Kris Drever's second solo album, Mark the Hard Earth.

Style and sound

"I wanted to do the whole spectrum of folk music from one guy singing and playing guitar or fiddle to a full band with electric guitar," O'Brien said. And that's how the pair (of albums) came out, like folk music bookends. Fiddler's Green tends toward the intimate and traditional, while Cornbread Nation is a bit funkier and tempo-driven. On both, however, old-time tunes sit comfortably next to originals and a few classic country songs by the likes of Jimmie Rodgers and Harlan Howard. "I could have taken all traditional songs, but I love stuff like 'California Blues' and 'Busted,' which are like folk songs to me, and they fit with the others, and it shows that what is called country music is just another footstep down the same path. Rock and roll, a lot of that is the same too."[1]

Distinctions and awards




Year Album US Bluegrass Label
1984 Hard Year Blues Flying Fish
1988 Take Me Back Sugar Hill
1991 Odd Man In
1992 Remember Me
1993 Oh Boy! O'Boy!
1994 Away Out on the Mountain
1995 Rock in My Shoe
1996 Red on Blonde
1997 When No One's Around
1999 The Crossing Alula Records
2000 Real Time (with Darrell Scott) Howdy Skies
2001 Two Journeys
2003 TravelerA 8 Sugar Hill
2005 Cornbread Nation 7
Fiddler's Green 9
2008 Chameleon 6 Proper American

Other appearances


Year Song Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1990 "The Battle Hymn of Love" (w/ Kathy Mattea) 9 10 A Collection of Hits (Kathy Mattea album)


External links


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