"You've got to keep those roots and branches growing and pray they'll always be," sings Tim O'Brien on Two Journeys, the 2001 album on which he celebrates his Irish heritage. And few if any contemporary musical artists have so beautifully balanced the disparate poles inherent in the notion of neo-traditional music (as proven on his Two Journeys cover of "Norwegian Wood"). With a tenor voice as sweet and deep as the kiss of a longtime lover, considerable proficiency on the guitar, mandolin and fiddle, and songwriting abilities both rooted yet accessible (the Dixie Chicks and Garth Brooks have covered him), O'Brien may well be the complete American acoustic musician. His visionary explorations include an album of Dylan songs (Red on Blonde) where he makes them sound like his own and a set inspired by the novel Cold Mountain (Songs From the Mountain) long before the film. In his capable hands, folklore remains as fresh and full of life as a newborn child.
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