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Duo brings down-home songs to Arden stage

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 19, 2014 06:00 am

GETTING THEIR DUE – Darrell Scott, bearded, and Tim O'Brien netted a Grammy nomination for their song Keep Your Dirty Lights, lauded for Best American Roots Song.
GETTING THEIR DUE – Darrell Scott, bearded, and Tim O'Brien netted a Grammy nomination for their song Keep Your Dirty Lights, lauded for Best American Roots Song.
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Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien
Wednesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $40 plus facility fee. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at

Two of American roots music’s most highly regarded artists have earned their keep in the annals of music history.

Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien netted a Grammy nomination for their song Keep Your Dirty Lights lauded for Best American Roots Song.

The deeply thought-provoking song is on the pair’s collaboration Memories & Moments, a critically praised CD released in September 2013 on their newly minted Full Skies label.

“As independent artists, we don’t have a label backing us. We’re two guys doing it ourselves. We’re a little cottage industry, and to get a Grammy is a success and a mystery,” Scott says.

In less than four minutes, the song tackles America’s coal mining industry and the larger issues of environmental degradation.

Conservation is an issue dear to their hearts. O’Brien comes from West Virginia and Scott resides in Kentucky. From the porch of his house facing east, Scott can see Bear Knob Mountain where strip mining has been going on since the 1930s.

He explains that in mountain top removal, coal is removed by planting explosives in the mountain. When the mining is complete, the mountain is gone and only rubble remains.

Rather than being an attack on the industry, the duo is trying to make people aware that the electricity they use brings about the destruction of majestic mountains – an environmental dilemma that cannot be fixed with glue.

O’Brien may drive a hybrid but he doesn’t consider himself an activist.

“I try to stay out of politics. Most of the time you’re preaching to the choir.”

But it’s these down-home truths sung in an authentic fashion that the award-winning pair present at their Arden Theatre debut on Wednesday, April 23.

The duo has made music together for a long time, both as collaborators and as solo acts. Despite what O’Brien might say, their blue-collar roots music makes people think.

Scott and O’Brien met about 17 years ago, but had known of each other through the interconnected web of roots musicians. Their managers believed they would make strong songwriting collaborators and invited them to Nashville.

They paraded their musicianship at a party where they played together in an intimate songwriting circle.

“We realized we played well together. Tim had booked a three-week tour and invited me along, and one thing led to another,” Scott explains.

Back in 2000, they recorded the album Real Time, a deep and widely acclaimed album nominated for a Grammy Award. Following the album, they became a much-in-demand touring act and they hit the road whenever schedules allowed.

Both have flourishing careers as solo artists and sidemen and opportunities to record together have been few and far between. But once in the same room, the two stripped down musicians slide into their roles quite seamlessly.

Scott describes their musicianship and partnership in the same vein as breathing.

“It’s the most natural thing we do. It doesn’t require us to do a lot of other things. We’ve been playing for decades. The big thing is we listen really well to each other. It’s fun. It’s natural. We’re cognizant that we’re here to entertain. It’s about being in the moment.”

O’Brien suggests their passion for recording and singing in real time stems from a love of old recordings.

“We like to have it sound like you’re sitting around the kitchen table. That’s the way we record. You hear us reacting in real time. It’s like eating fresh vegetables instead of store-bought.”

Scott pointed out that when the pair completes the Memories & Moments tours in September, they have no plans for future projects. Meanwhile, they plan to give it all they’ve got.

O’Brien closed the interview saying, “It’s a great honour and gift to be a musician. When the audience comes, and you get this thing flowing through you and it becomes part of a bigger thing.”


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