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Tim O'BrienTim O'Brien
Album: Pompadour
Label: Howdy Skies
Tracks: 11

Tim's so darned busy with other projects these days, not to mention virtually constant sessioneering, that I'm amazed he still finds time to lay down a solo record even every once in a while. The impetus for this latest, we're told, was Tim's marriage breakup and subsequent divorce four years ago - and yet it comes across as a fairly upbeat collection, with bouncy rhythms and often distinctly jaunty arrangements that are sometimes some way from what even those used to Tim's eclecticism might reasonably expect.

Take the opener (title song), which is a casually jazzy, swinging number with scoring that includes trumpet and marimba (those versatile sidemen Kai Welch and Kenny Malone). Other numbers, like I Gotta Move and Dan Reeder's The Tulips On The Table, are almost cheery in their treatment of the theme (love Nate Smith's cheeky cello solo on the latter too!). These cuts, and the delicious Ditty Boy Twang with its tasty mandolin syncopations trading off cello with (Trevor Hutchinson's) bass, are distinctly Cooder-esque in their animated rootsy styling. Instrumental cut Snake Basket, a sinuous reel, is one of Tim's characteristic Celtic-crossover outings. Then again, tracks like Gimme Little Somethin' Take Her Off My Mind and Get Up Offa That Thing (yes, that James Brown number) are altogether closer to old-school rock'n'roll and funky R&B respectively, the latter especially irresistible with its chunky, yet sparsely-scored groove and sure-fire prescription of "dance, you'll feel better".

Pompadour's a stylish set all told, and no mistake, although perhaps less attractive a proposition overall for the harder-core bluegrass and country aficionados who form much of his fanbase. Even so, tracks like I'm A Mess For You, The Water Is Wise and the Guthrie/Bragg "completion" Go Down To The Water will please those folks mightily, and further compensation's always at hand in the shape of Tim's trademark instrumental versatility, his relaxed, seemingly effortless singing and the contributions of his support crew (including on this occasion some neat harmony vocals from Jan Fabricius). To sum up this record, one might just say "good god, y'all!"

David Kidman