Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 11/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This bluegrass homage to Bob Dylan is surprisingly lively and fresh and (oddly enough) one of O'Brien's best, most straightforwardly bluegrass-y solo albums. Scott Nygaard, Jerry Douglas and others pitch in on this good-natured album, spearheaded by the longtime Hot Rize mandolinist, who has since gone on into more high-concept blue/newgrass terrain. Here, O'Brien connects with Dylan's original old-timey influences, straightening out some of the kooky kinks Dylan had put into folk music, back in his 'Sixties heyday, and transforming classic tunes such as "Maggie's Farm" and "Tombstone Blues" into straightforward, galloping bluegrass breakdowns. Nice to hear this music coming full circle back to its roots!"
Clever Title, Beautiful Music
H. F. Corbin | ATLANTA, GA USA | 10/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tim O'Brien's all bluegrass recording of Bob Dylan songs has a clever title-- I assume he is referring to his own reddish hair-- but more important than a catchy phrase is O'Brien's renderings of thirteen titles that span Dylan's songwriting career from 1963 to 1989. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the music of the protean Dylan works well in a bluegrass setting complete with mandolins, banjo, fiddle, harmonica and guitar of course. After all, Dylan over the years has dabbled in country music ("Nashville Skyline") and has recorded with the likes of Johnny Cash.
Of the thirteen songs included here, my favorites are "Farewell Angelina," "Man Gave Names To All The Animals," "Oxford Town," and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune." In his excellent notes, Mr. O'Brien pays tribute to Joan Baez and her arrangement of "Farewell Angelina," saying that she "may be Dylan's best interpreter." (I would suggest it may be a toss-up between Ms. Baez and Judy Collins.) Even though O'Brien suggests that "Man Gave Names to All The Animals" is from Dylan "at his silliest," the song for me has a great beat and makes me smile. "Oxford Town" of course is about James Meredith's integrating the University of Mississippi. O'Brien at times sounds a little like Dylan here. "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" is a beautiful hymn-like song with the backup singers adding beautiful harmonies.
This CD is everything you hoped for and then some."
Sweet Pretty Things
Kevin L. Nenstiel | Kearney, Nebraska | 02/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No one ever pretended Bob Dylan had a pretty voice, but he did do definitive versions of his songs. So why should we pay money to hear a bluegrass artist do covers that sound markedly different from Dylan's originals?Because the real magic of Bob Dylan's music is that it is so malleable. Every important song he wrote has more than one meaning, more than one interpretation, and his body of work has been a gold mine for intellectual musicians looking for a strong voice to adopt.Mercifully, Tim O'Brien avoided the best-known Dylan tunes like Blowin' in the Wind or Mr. Tambourine Man. This isn't just a greatest hits retrospective; it's a cohesive artistic statement, like Blood on the Tracks or John Wesley Harding. One could imagine Dylan himself running Tombstone Blues up against Farewell Angelina, mustering little-known pieces like Oxford Town to keep the listener's attention through the middle portion, and crowning the sequence with Forever Young and Lay Down Your Weary Tune.Yet for this artistic integrity and loftiness, it's still an album you can listen to more than once. The bouncy upbeat tunes on most of the tracks carry you along easily, and even when the pace slows on songs like Wicked Messenger or Masters of War, the flawless ensemble playing and clear vocals make you want to continue listening.This piece is a worthy addition to the body of work of Tim O'Brien, but it's also a wonderful statement for Bob Dylan. And it's a highly pleasing, satisfying addition to the CD collection of any fan of either artist."
I Got Dem Old-Time String Band Music Blues Again, Mama
Steve Vrana | Aurora, NE | 06/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album was NOT Tim O'Brien's attempt to make Dylan's music more pallatable (which seems to be what some reviewers are saying), but rather "to find a batch of Dylan tunes that could be given an old-time string band treatment" as he explains in his liner notes. A couple nights ago I saw O'Brien perform at a bluegrass festival in Lincoln. While his set was dominated by material from his two recent Celtic-influenced albums (1999's The Crossing and 2001's Two Journeys), he performed two songs from Red on Blonde: "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" and "Subturranean Homesick Blues," the latter which he introduced as a kind of bluegrass rap complete with Mark Shatz's ham bone body percussion. [I also used the opportunity to get an autographed copy of this album.]Are O'Brien's treatments of these songs an improvement upon the originals? I don't think that was his intent--and in the end does it really matter? O'Brien says in his liner notes, "It's one more chance to survey Dylan's output and hopefully enjoy it in a new way." If you enjoy old-time music with lots of mandolin, fiddle and banjo, you'll enjoy this heartfelt offering. O'Brien also hints at a "Volume Two"--I can't wait. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
Match of the century: Dylan and O'Brien
really-siobhan | 07/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although Tim O'Brien is one of America's top songwriters, there certainly is nothing wrong with his paying tribute to another writer, particularly one who has defined not just American music but music of the 20th century. Sometimes, we can do without interpreters of song but O'Brien is a musical genius and he brings something special to Dylan's music. Imagine a wonderful cake with a frosting worthy of the filling."