The title of this live record comes from a comment by Tim O'Brien after he and Darrell Scott have acoustically rocked Townes Van Zandt's White Freightliner Blues. With all due respect to O'Brien, if they're usually better, I'd like to hear it, because this is good. Very good.
When Robert Plant and his Band of Joy needed a man who could do it all, they called on Darrell Scott, and he delivered. Mark Knopfler and Steve Earle each made the same call to Tim O'Brien, and he delivered. Both men have played and recorded with a host of other artists and have successful solo careers. They are talented songwriters and instrumentalists, but their greatest gift may be their voices. I really like to hear them sing.
The release materials say that Scott and O'Brien first played together at a "pickin' party" thrown by Sam Bush. Scott says that they meshed so well they toured Europe together. "No rehearsals, just get up on stage and go cat go." In the liner notes of this record, Scott says that some of the songs in this recording were done "on stage on this recording for the first time," while "some songs we'd played hundreds of times over the years."
The recordings were made six and seven years ago at Grey Eagle during benefit concerts for the Arthur Morgan School, a boarding school where they each had a child attending. They include songs written by Scott and O'Brien, as well as several well chosen covers. Scott's Long Time Gone goes over extremely well, as does O'Brien's Climbing Up A Mountain. Of the covers, I like the Van Zandt song a lot, but my favorites would have to be Early Morning Rain (Gordon Lightfoot) and You Don't Have To Move That Mountain (Keith Whitley).
The record is extremely listenable, just the right combination of acoustic virtuosity and outstanding vocals. These men play together like they were meant to play together, which is probably due to a combination of their affinity for one another and the fact that they are both excellent side and front men. Any lover of acoustic music should own this record, and if you're not sure you're in that category, own it and it'll put you there.
We're Usually A Lot Better Than This will be released October 9.