Hi, there... This page is part of the Slipcue guide to various bluegrass artists, which is part of a much larger Hick Music website. This "guide" is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, just a quick look at a few records I've heard recently, as well as some old favorites. Comments or corrections are invited... and recommendations are always welcome!
This page covers the letter "O"
Tim O'Brien & Mollie O'Brien -- see artist discography
Fiddle prodigy Mark O'Connor blew everybody's minds back in the late 1970s and early '80s when one year after another he swept the prestigious National Old Time Fiddler's Contest, (which is held in Weisner, Idaho). In 1973, the first year he competed, the 11-year old O'Connor came in second, despite having only picked up the fiddle a few months before. After that, from 1975-84, he dominated the competition to such a remarkable extent that the judges kept changing the rules so that he would not be able to hold a lock on individual contests year after year. This generously-programmed album gathers together a few dozen of his best performances... admittedly, the sound quality isn't the greatest, but his performances are uniformly stunning. Anyone interested in O'Connor's early years, when he was more deeply rooted in traditional music than he has since become, should definitely check this out. It will explain a lot about this guy's tremendous influence on the world of bluegrass fiddling.
By the time this record came out, O'Connor had been gigging with the David Grisman-led spacegrass inner circle for several years. As the erudite-sounding album title implies, this was an early work which was influenced by Grisman's groundbreaking grass-jazz fusions, but, interestingly enough, one on which he chose to focus on the guitar, rather than the fiddle. The results are mighty fine. Still relatively traditional (although a couple of tunes may be worth skipping over), and very easy on the ears. Plenty of fine picking by the likes of Sam Bush, Tony Rice, Dan Crary and Grisman himself. Worth checking out.
O'Connor and various hotshot picker pals take on the explosive sounds of "young country" commercial music, as well as amped-up versions of bluegrass and western swing. To say that truegrass fans won't like this album is simply stating the obvious -- why country fans would, either, is a little harder to sort out. Certainly O'Connor & Co. are dazzlingly talented musicians, and it is kind of liberating to hear them horsing around and cutting loose from the boundaries of the new- and bluegrass, where he made his mark. Still, O'Connor playing electric sounds a lot like Charlie Daniels, and the musical style that he is so affectionately sending up (TV commercial country) simply lacks soul. It would have been a lot more interesting if he'd played it straight and put a little more sincere emotion into the performances.
Marko pals around with his fellow fiddle slingers, including such luminaries as Stephane Grapelli, Pinchas Zukerman, Kenny Baker, Johnny Gimble, Doug Kershaw, Vassar Clements and Buddy Spicher. A good album, despite a rough start with a pair of icky tracks featuring Jean Luc Ponty and Charlie Daniels (a reprise of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," of course, with Johnny Cash helping on the narration...) O'Connor even crosses into world music terrain, sawing away alongside the famed Indian classical-fusion violinist, L. Shankar. Slick, but worth checking out.
An iconic album for early '70s bluegrass fans, and a big bridge from the world of acidhead hippies into the traditional folk scene. The gathering of David Grisman, Peter Rowan, old-time fiddle whiz Vassar Clements and the Grateful Dead's teddybear avatar, Jerry Garcia is news in and of itself -- the Greg Irons cover art (of later editions) was just icing on the cake, giving this disc ultimate counterculture status. The band itself wasn't together that long, and was a pretty informal gig to begin with. They were, as the saying goes, ragged but right -- a little haphazard when compared to the classic recordings of the bluegrass elders, but full of the right attitude. In some ways, it's actually kinda nice how loosey-goosey Old & In The Way were -- their relaxed, easygoing approach was a folk scene equivalent of the DIY punk explosion in rock. Doubtless many hundreds of fledgling pickers were encouraged to pick up an instrument after hearing this disc. Fun stuff, with nice versions of a couple of Rowan's best tunes, "Midnight Moonlight," and "Panama Red..."
Old And In The Way "That High Lonesone Sound" (Acoustic Disc, 1996)
Old And In The Way "Breakdown" (Acoustic Disc, 1997)
It's nice, isn't it, that David Grisman is such a magpie... Poking around in his closets he came up with the material for these two excellent archival collections, which give a perfect, bird's eye view of Old & In The Way live and in action, during their all-too-brief prime. It's a shame the band wasn't able to stay together longer, just to see how much they would have tightened (or changed) their sound... But since Rowan and Grisman both went on to do some of the best work of their careers immediately after this, I guess we can't really be all that bummed. There's certainly little to complain about here... Again, the band is ragged but right; they may have been a little sloppy, but the music is still exciting. Recommended!
A swell get-together of some of Grisman's grizzled, goofy bluegrass buddies. The lineup includes David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements and Herb Pedersen, along with young'un Bryn Bright. who plays a mighty fine bass. The vibe here is playful and relaxed, running through some old favorites and crowd pleasers... highlights include the album opener, "Good Old Boys" and the spine-tingling story-song, "The Flood," which details a river rising and a community rallying to meet the crisis. If you enjoyed Grisman's Retrograss album from a few years earlier, then you oughtta love this one, too!
Open Road Bluegrass Band "Open Road" (Self-released, 2000)
Really nice old-school melodic bluegrass, with fine picking and nice vocals. This Colorado outfit covers a lot of name-brand old-timers, including Charlie Moore, the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers. If you like the sound of where that list is headed, then you oughta check these folks out! There's not an off song or sour note on the whole album... They play this stuff really sweet, the way I like it, and sound like their hearts are really in it. Check 'em out!
These Colorado clophoppers have a great, gritty old-time feel, heavy on the fiddles and the high, raspy harmonies, with a healthy, welcome mix of old-fashioned country and fast, twangy truegrass... Another nice record that helps position them as one of the most promising truegrass bands of the new decade... Recommended!
Open Road "Lucky Drive" (Rounder, 2005)
The Osborne Brothers -- see artist discography
An outstanding album by Sonny Osborne's lad, who both sings and plunks the banjo... He has a classic bluegrass tenor, backed by a fine sense of timing and an ability to deeply connect with the material... Bobby Osborne and bandmates Terry Smith and Terry Eldredge provide a solid musical backing, while picker Richard Bennett turns in a nice, low-key and very elegant performance on lead and rhythm guitar. This is a really nice record!
Peter Ostroushko -- see artist discography
Bluegrass Albums - Letter "P"
Hick Music Index