Howdy Skies Records
One of the many thoughts that came into my head as I isolated myself in the western North Carolina Mountains during the pandemic was a hope that musicians would step up and document these crazy times of half a million Covid-19 deaths, social unrest and the higher priority put on technology during a time of uncertain seclusion. Many a song written 80 years ago about the Great Depression are a great example of why it should be done.
That is why Tim O’Brien’s new album He Walked On is important. Whether you agree with the themes of his eight new original songs—and five covers—or not, O’Brien does not preach down to anyone on this project but instead seeks common ground while reflecting these historic times.
Produced by O’Brien and recorded from October of 2020 through January of 2021, this impressive burst of creativity is thankfully, mostly upbeat in groove. The multi-genre project features Mike Bub, Pete Abbott, Jan Fabricius, Odessa Settles, Mike Rojas, Shad Cobb, Edgar Meyer, Justin Moses and Luke Reynolds.
The highlights include the infectiously positive “When you Pray, Move Your Feet,” based on a favorite phrase used by the late Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis, the songs “Nervous” and “Pushing On Buttons, Staring At Screens,” which finds O’Brien once again capturing the travails of these technologically-saturated modern times, “El Comedor,” about O’Brien and Fabricius’ trip to the Mexican border in Arizona, and “Can You See Me Sister,” written about the dialogue between two of Thomas Jefferson’s children, one white and one black.
Featuring O’Brien on the banjo, the Dale Keys-penned “Five Miles In and One Mile Down” tells the story of the Upper Big Branch Mine deaths of 2010 in O’Brien’s home state of West Virginia. Another perfect choice of a cover song on this excellent album is a swinging version of “We’re In The Same Boat Brother,” written at the end of WWII and filled with the positive possibilities of our human race if we successfully find common ground.