If you're craving some down-home-style music and warm spirit to match, the Birchmere is the place to be tomorrow night when one of the country's preeminent American roots musicians appears, along with a rising star of the alternative bluegrass movement.
Tim O'Brien was a child of the 1950s who grew up in Wheeling, W.Va., listening to country, bluegrass and the Beatles on the radio. As a teenager, he went West to explore the bluegrass scene in Colorado and formed the band Hot Rize. During its 12 years, Hot Rize won the International Bluegrass Music Association's first Entertainer of the Year award in 1990. In 1993, O'Brien was named the association's Male Vocalist of the Year.
During a nearly three-decade career, O'Brien has explored a variety of styles with numerous collaborators. After Hot Rize, he assembled the O'Boys, an eclectic band whose output included "Red on Blonde," an album of Bob Dylan songs. His first solo album, 1984's "Hard Year Blues," evolved his bluegrass sound into a kind of folk fusion, while a trio of duet albums with his sister Mollie showcased a love of vintage country, cowboy songs and Western swing. "Songs From the Mountain" featured O'Brien and old-time musicians John Herrmann and Dirk Powell in songs inspired by the novel "Cold Mountain."A project dubbed New Grange melded tasteful piano with a string band. In 1999 and 2001, O'Brien collaborated with Irish musicians for two collections of original and traditional songs, "On The Crossing" and "Two Journeys."
In addition to his own prolific songwriting, O'Brien is a tireless explorer of the music canon, soaking up songs from around the world, from all genres. In fact, he had so many songs he wanted to record when he last entered the studio that he wound up recording two CDs -- the quiet, traditional "Fiddler's Green" and the funky, rhythmic "Cornbread Nation."
On this tour, O'Brien is accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Danny Barnes, formerly of the Bad Livers, a band whose irreverent, somewhat punk take on bluegrass has earned it a loyal following. Barnes's most recent solo effort, "Get Myself Together," was released in August on Terminus Records.
Opening the show will be Adrienne Young, a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist who is quickly becoming a bluegrass sweetheart to rival the beloved Alison Krauss. With her band, Little Sadie, Young creates a pop-edged, old-time sound that hearkens back to simpler times, but lives fully in the modern world.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
The Birchmere is at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Tickets are $18.50, and are available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 703-551-SEAT. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office from 5 to 9 p.m. on show nights. For more information call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.
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