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Tim O'Brien

Red On Blonde – 1996 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Norm Rosenfield

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CDs by Tim O'Brien

A concept doesn't need to be strikingly original to work - after all, many of Dylan's compositions are themselves based on traditional song forms - so there'sno reason why this collection of bluegrass-treated Dylan songs should fail tosucceed.

The frustation in listening to O'Brien's project is that the artistic realization often falls short of the mark. At times, the CD sounds like the musicians are confronting Dylan's material for the first time - the sparse production sounds tentative. There are a number of bright moments, however, mos notably "Farewell Angelina" and "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)," which draw the listener into a compelling musical mix. In the case of these tunes as well as a few others on this 13-song disc, sparseness actually works to the performers' advantage. "Forever Young" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" offersimple, powerful supplications from Hibbing, Minn.'s most brilliant bard.

Better song selection, more creative arrangements and more consistently inspired performances would have made this effort more enjoyable.