After meeting in the '90s and later touring together as part of Steve Earle's band, Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott produced a memorable turn-of-the-century collaboration, "Real Time," which became one of the cornerstones of the emerging "Americana" format. Both Appalachian natives, O'Brien (West Virginia) and Scott (Kentucky) claim country music as "part of their DNA," and it has showed throughout the long list of projects each has been associated with, together and separately.
O'Brien gained renown in the '80s as the front man of the neo-traditionalist bluegrass band Hot Rize, collaborations with fellow Mountain State native Kathy Mattea and the roots/blues he performs with sister Mollie O'Brien. Scott, for his part, racked up live and studio credits ranging from Guy Clark to Del McCoury to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and many others over the course of several decades.
Both became acclaimed songwriters along the way - Scott in particular scored big in the midst of the "O Brother" phenomenon with You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive, a hit for both Patty Loveless and Brad Paisley, and covered by countless others. "Real Time," recorded in Scott's home, reflected the resonances between the two in a natural setting.
Thirteen years later, "Memories And Moments" was recorded in studio, yet still reflects "real time." Minimally produced, for the most part it's just O'Brien and Scott. Who needs a band? It's as comfortable and satisfying as sitting on the couch in the corner of the living room and listening in, well, "real time."
As on the previous disc, most of the material features originals by each, more or less equally divided. Scott's It All Comes Down To Love stands out as a moving ballad, and O'Brien's Brother Wind is likewise noteworthy, but the material is satisfying throughout. They put their heads together for Turn Your Dirty Lights On, a pointed commentary on the destructive practice of mountain-top removal to get at coal veins, and it's also among the best cuts. In the same vein (pun not intended), John Prine's Paradise is included, with Prine himself joining in. Add in salutes to George Jones (Just One More) and Hank Williams (Alone And Forsaken), and they've covered pretty much all the bases. Call it "country," call it "Americana," call it "roots" - it's still about as real as it gets.