Big Red Sun
Sugar Hill Records
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Mollie O'Brien could easily get stuck in the shadows. After all, she is the sister of former Hot Rize singer Tim O'Brien, with whom she has recorded three duet albums. She is working to break out at a time when a number of great female vocalists are making it big time. While her voice evokes comparisons to Laura Love, Susan Tedeschi, and even early Bonnie Raitt, BIG RED SUN earns Mollie O'Brien her share of the spotlight.
O'Brien's versatility as a vocalist is evident. Her voice compels you to listen, as she is not just singing a tune, she's telling a story. The stories come from a number of sources, including Randy Newman, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams and the late great Steve Goodman. Produced by Hot Rize alumnus Charles Sawtelle, O'Brien's voice, and the song, remain the focus on each track. This is no small feat given the presence of folks like Nick Forster (another Hot Rize alum), Robin and Linda Williams, and Peter Rowan.
Goodman's Looking For Trouble is a real standout. O'Brien's bluesy voice, accompanied only by Forster's guitar, gives the song the stark backdrop it needs to tell the story. For an upbeat counterpoint, listen to No Hiding Place, sung in gospel quartet style.
The true measure of a good album is how it holds up over time. I am confident that many of us will be playing BIG RED SUN ten or twenty years from now, along with all the fine albums yet to come from Mollie O'Brien.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz (firstname.lastname@example.org)