October 15, 2012

The Tim O達rien Jamboree

by Jim Newsom

Tim O達rien was surrounded by music when he was growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia in the 1960s.

的 just liked music in general, he told me in a recent telephone conversation. 展e sang at church and in school, and my friends were playing guitars. My brother was into jazz ; my parents liked the old swing stuff. I liked Perry Como, Joe Williams with the Count Basie Band; Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. And then there was The Beatles, Peter Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel.

His mother took him and his sister Mollie to Pittsburgh to see The Beatles in concert on September 14, 1964. But it was a folksinging acoustic guitarist who captured Tim O達rien痴 attention and set him on a path that would lead to a rich life in music, international renown and numerous awards:

展hen I was about thirteen, I saw this guy Doc Watson on the TV and I went 糎ow! That痴 probably the way you should play the guitar. I値l try to figure how to do that. I was playing fingerstyle guitar, but he did the flat-pick thing and he was such a good folk music purveyor. He was a major hero all through my life. He really laid it out for us. Peter, Paul & Mary were doing it葉he blues and folk music. But Doc was playing all of that stuff more authentically and somehow integrating it into one program that seemed to make sense. He壇 play jazz, he壇 play blues, he壇 play bluegrass, the old ballads, and what an incredible singer. His thing was just so relaxed and personable, like sitting on the front porch with him.

Local radio station WWVA broadcast the Wheeling Jamboree, a live radio show similar to the Grand Ole Opry that brought leading country and bluegrass stars to town.

的 had a girlfriend when I was fourteen, O達rien remembered, 努hose father was a doctor but had an antique business on the side, and one of his patients and helpers was a banjo player named Roger Bland. Roger was in the staff band [at WWVA] playing banjo and guitar. Everybody in town that was interested in bluegrass knew him. He was a hopeless case as far as his personal life, but he was really inspiring as a musician. He showed me what might be possible, just gave me an inkling and awakened that appreciation in me. Playing one-on-one sealed the deal.

迭oger would have a tumbler of gin at his house, then he壇 take me to a bar and play happy hour. He was this brilliant musician playing in this low-key environment, so he could show me stuff as we went along. That痴 a lot different than seeing somebody onstage when you池e in the audience and you池e just a guy watching. It sucks you right in.

After a year at Colby College in Maine, he headed west, winding up in Boulder, Colorado, a college town with a blossoming music scene. There he cofounded Hot Rize, a band whose music evolved from primarily traditional bluegrass to a more progressive, boundary pushing unit during its 1978-1990 lifetime. He also performed and recorded with his sister Mollie, achieving popularity as a duo.

的 was in Colorado for 22 years, he said, 努ith a little brief sprint up to Minneapolis for a little bit. But I got to be friendly with people from Nashville because I壇 be out on the road working. It looked like, to support my family, Nashville was the place. Since I had moved there in 74, Boulder had become much more gentrified and I outgrew the music scene there. So Nashville was the only logical place. I didn稚 want to go to LA or New York and raise a kid.

的 kinda went on my own terms. I had some songs already recorded by other artists. Soon after I moved there, I got a Garth Brooks cut. It was good positive reinforcement. Because I知 in Nashville, when somebody like The Chieftains comes to town, they say 層ho can we get to make this country record? And the producer will say let痴 get 奏his and that, and Tim O達rien. It痴 just like fishing out of the local stream there.

In recent years, Tim O達rien痴 stock has only gone up. He won the Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy for his 2005 CD, Fiddler痴 Green. His live performance schedule is packed, filled with a wide variety of performances, from traditional bluegrass to singer-songwriter club gigs to Celtic and world music festivals to the Kennedy Center for the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration. He and Mollie released a CD this spring with their families covering Roger Miller songs. And on November 4th, he値l be in Norfolk for a concert at Temple Israel to benefit ForKids and The Dwelling Place.

But perhaps his biggest thrill came early this year, three months before Doc Watson passed away:

的 went to visit Doc in February. I壇 never been to his house; I kept thinking that I didn稚 want to bother him. But one day I said I知 gonna visit him while I can. I went to his place. He was living alone. We hung out, just the two of us, for three and a half hours, snow coming down outside, telling stories, playing songs. I will never forget it.

Tim O達rien
Sunday, November 4 6:00 pm
Temple Israel
7255 Granby St, Norfolk
Tickets: $25.00 35.00
(757) 622-6400; www.homesforkids.org

copyright ゥ 2012 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved.


"Good Golly Miss Mollie"
March 15, 2011
An interview with Tim痴 sister, Mollie O達rien