Tim’s just deserts

American singer-songwriter Tim O'Brien
American singer-songwriter Tim O'Brien

American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien has been a regular visitor to Sheffield over the years.

He was one of the few musicians to appear at a short-lived restaurant cum music venue on Arundel Street (where Silversmiths restaurant now stands).

There was too much talking among diners for his small audience at the back to fully appreciate him, so he popped up at the end to perform a couple of songs standing among them!

Which says it all. Tim O’Brien knows how to entertain an audience with his well-judged selection of country, bluegrass, old-time and Americana songs and tunes.

Playing guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo, as well as being a fine singer, his visits to Sheffield have often been as a part of duo. In particular, there have been memorable performances alongside Darrell Scott.

When O’Brien presents his original compositions, other artists’ songs (he recorded a whole album of Dylan) and traditional material at the Greystones on Sunday, May 21, he will be accompanied by his partner and singer Jan Fabricius.

Expect, too, a dip into his latest album, Where the River Meets the Road, which celebrates the music of his native state of West Virginia. The title track tells the story of his great-grandfather, who emigrated from Ireland in 1851.

The album follows 15 solo records and countless collaborations.

Tim O’Brien is very much a musician’s musician, as can be judged by his numerous appearances on BBC TV’s TransAtlantic Sessions.

There will also be a swift return to the Greystones for the young Canadian-born banjo player, Kaia Kater.

She was there last March when she supported Kris Drever, performing tracks from her latest album, Nine Pin, and the young musician continues to garner critical acclaim for her fresh approach to authentic old-time music.

Born of Afro-Caribbean descent in Québec, Kaia Kater grew up between two worlds.

Her family has deep ties to the Canadian folk music in her Toronto home and she has also spent years spent learning and studying Appalachian music in West Virginia.

Her acclaimed debut album, Sorrow Bound, touched on this divide, but Nine Pin (released last September on Proper Records) delves even further.

It also casts an unflinching eye at the realities faced by black people in North America every day.

Her promoters say: “Her songs on the new album are fuelled by her rich low tenor vocals, jazz-influenced instrumentation, and beautifully understated banjo, and they’ve got as much in common with Kendrick Lamar right now as they do with Pete Seeger.

“True to her roots in Appalachia, the title of the album comes from a traditional square dance formation in which a woman stands alone in the middle of a circle of people turning around her.

“As a double meaning, it’s also one of the pins in bowling that keeps getting knocked down.”

Recorded in just one day in Toronto, Nine Pin was produced by Kater and Canadian artist Chris Bartos (The Barr Brothers, Jonathan Byrd).