Tim O'Brien Poster copyYou can set your clock by it.

Same time every year the (2005) Grammy-winning folk and bluegrass pioneer Tim O’Brien returns to town to hang with his dear friends David and Karen Lamb, owners of the Telluride Music Company. The threesome have known each other since the early days of the now 40-year-old Telluride Bluegrass Festival (where O’Brien became a lifer). Tim returns to visit the Lambs and other close friends, ski Telluride, and share his music with his many fans.

Tim’s annual concert at the historic Sheridan Opera House takes place Monday, February 18, 8 p.m. The opening act, appropriately enough, is The Lamb Boys, David and sons Nason and Jesse.

In case you’ve missed Tim over the many years, the now-famous, extravagantly talented redhead and adopted son is one of the best singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists on the planet. He plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki and mandocello. He is also a sought-after producer (the Duhks, Robin & Linda Williams), songwriter (Garth Brooks, Dixie Chicks) and sideman (he has toured and recorded with Mark Knopfler).

Whether it’s a reinterpretation of an old fiddle tune, a revitalized honky-tonk shuffle from the 1950s or an original bluegrass-inflected folk tune, Tim’s sound is always at once familiar and fresh. He once described his job as taking old music and serving it up in ways people can understand and relate to.

“The process is like chiseling away at sculpture: What you were after is always there. It’s a matter of going at it until you uncover what’s you,” he told me during one of many past interviews.

Tim O’Brien’s early history is common knowledge around these parts, how he grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia surrounded by classic country and bluegrass music. We may not remember some of the finer points of his life such as the fact Tim bagged a liberal arts education following his bliss to Boulder, Colorado, where a burgeoning, eccentric roots music scene was forming. We may not have that information at our fingertips, but Telluriders for sure know what followed: Ophelia Swing Band, Hot Rize, and its alter-ego country swing band, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, the stuff of Telluride Bluegrass Festival legend.

(And Hot Rize is confirmed for the 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.)

I first met the O’ Briens in 1993 (or was it 1994?). I was a baby reporter writing features for the newly hatched Daily Planet, and Tim and Mollie (who became a regular on Prairie Home Companion) were performing in town at Telluride Bluegrass to promote their recording, Away Out on the Mountain. Any new Tim O’Brien album is cause for breaking out the champagne, doubly so when he is joined by his sister Mollie, because there is nothing like genetic stew for producing the tastiest (and tightest) harmonies. And then there were seven.

Year after year at Telluride Bluegrass, Tim lovingly acknowledged his family, wife Kit and their offspring, sitting in the audience for each of his gigs. Magically, at last year’s event, sons Jackson and Joel, Aunt Mollie and Uncle Rich Moore and their daughters, cousins Brigid and Lucy, performed together on the Fred Shellman (Main) Stage for the first time ever as O’Brien Party of Seven. They sang the music of Roger Miller from the family’s first release, Reincarnation, and kicked it.

Tim also recently released a live recording with long time musical collaborator Darrell Scott. No Depression Magazine described We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This as extremely listenable, with “just the right combination of acoustic virtuosity and outstanding vocals.”

To purchase tickets, please visit sheridanoperahouse.com or call 728-6363 ext. 5.

And for a preview of the good times in store, watch this video of Tim harmonizing with Darrell Scott.


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