Music: Full Circle

Tim O’Brien revisits roots on new album

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Tim O’Brien’s new album, ‘Where The River Meets The Road,’ features covers of songs written by West Virginia natives.

By Charlie Swanson

Grammy-winning bluegrass and folk songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien grew up in the mill and steel town of Wheeling, West Virginia, along the Ohio River. His Leave it to Beaver upbringing included a lot of country music on the radio, but little in the way of local economical options, so O’Brien headed west to Colorado before moving to Nashville.

Since becoming a famed figure in that city’s music scene, O’Brien has released more than a dozen acclaimed albums that have made him a household name for bluegrass fans across the country. He returns to his roots with his new album, Where The River Meets The Road, inspired by his home state. O’Brien will perform off of the new record on Friday, April 7 in Berkeley and on Saturday, April 8 in Sebastopol.

“When I sang bluegrass and country music, people took me more seriously because I was from West Virginia,” O’Brien recalls. “The love of the music kept going, but I kept viewing it from afar.”

The two original tunes on the album are a couple of O’Brien’s most personal songs ever. The title track is the story of his family’s arrival in West Virginia from Ireland in the 1850s, and “Guardian Angel” is the heartbreaking story of the death of O’Brien’s older sister when he was just a toddler.

“If I look at it one way, I’ve been spending my whole artistic life getting ready to make this record,” O’Brien says. “It’s a reflection of where I’m at and what I’ve experienced.”

Tim O’Brien, Friday, April 7, Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley; 8pm; $26-$28; 510/644-2020; Saturday, April 8, Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol; 8pm; $25-$30; 707/823-1511.

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