Get Tim O'Reagan Ringtones sent to your cell phone!
Black & Blue
James Brown famously said, Give the drummer some.
And Tim OReagan proves how wise that advice can be.
Fans already know OReagan through his work with The Jayhawks, for whom he played drums and also wrote songs that were strong enough to find a place among those of bandleader Gary Louris.
But though his distinctive vocals earned him a place in their vocal tapestry, he stayed in the background, as drummers must do, a few yards from the action that transpired at the front of the stage.
Well, those days are over for OReagan, whose self-titled debut is not what you might expect from a drummer whos stepping out on his own.
It is, for example, extraordinarily musical, beginning with the first track. These Things sets an immediate mood, with an accordion not a zydeco blast but a French musette that might have been sampled in some Left Bank caf. The rhythm sets in, ambling and strolling, with someone whistling absently in the background behind the lyrics, Im looking still If you werent paying attention enough to notice the dark cast of the rest of the words, youd think this was a lovers wistful reverie.
Some of that has to do with OReagans singing. His style is conversational, understated, and richly emotional. Its not hard to discern his influences, but in the end his voice is like none other. It is, in fact, a classic rock vehicle, harking back to Dylan, Lennon, even soul music of sixties vintage: melodic, aggressive when it needs to be, maybe a little sly and ironic, often haunting, ultimately unforgettable.
Then there are the songs. Think of them as prairie Americana, sweetened with a psychedelic sprinkle and treated now and then to a European vacation. Tendrils of melody weave through verses and explode in the choruses. Theyre sharp too, many of them wrapping around hooks that aim for your ear and dig into your memory. Just check out River Bends and youll know what we mean: That line, goodnight, desire, would have sounded perfect coming through your AM radio on some steamy summer night back in the 70s.
And, before we forget, he plays most of the instruments. A few guests, mainly friends in Minneapolis, do sit in (Jayhawks Gary Louris and Marc Perlman for
instance) and do contribute to the mix. But most of the guitar, the bass, the keys, and of course the drums are pure OReagan.
Not bad for a guy who used to hear music in terms of locking the kick drum to the bass line. But judging from Tim OReagan, something deeper was stirring even as he was breaking into music on the R&B circuit in Kansas City. Eventually he and his friend Todd Newman put a band together called the Leatherwoods and headed toward the Twin Cities.
They cut one album, Topeka Oratorio, co-produced by Paul Westerberg.
OReagan quickly found a foothold in the lively scene that centered on Minneapolis. After four years of playing with the Leatherwoods and others in Minneapolis Joe Henry recruited him for shows and sessions. Playing and writing with Todd and then just being a part of the Minneapolis music community put me on the track of writing my own songs.
Then in 1996 OReagan joined The Jayhawks. For more than ten years the Minneapolis-based band had built its success on a foundation of brilliantly crafted original material. Their standards, in other words, were high, which made it especially impressive that they would include Bottomless Cup on OReagans first CD with the band, Sound of Lies. He started singing around that same time too, all of which got him thinking about doing a project of original music, on his own. I got a rehearsal space lined up, he remembers. I got a little more time in my schedule. I got married to a great woman with great health insurance and thats what allowed me to finally get to work on this.
OReagan moved ahead at a comfortable pace. First he brought in John Woodland, a respected guitar tech in Minneapolis, to join him as co-producer. Then there were the players, who included Jayhawks alumni Louris, Perlman, Mark Olson and Karen Grotberg, former Son Volt bass player Jim Boquist, and bassist James Hutch Hutchinson from Bonnie Raitts band. Sessions were pretty loose: OReagan would usually show up at each musicians house with his gear, set it up, and record wherever everybody felt most at ease.
Most of Tim OReagan, though, is Tim OReagan. Over the space of about a year and a half he laid down the majority of these tracks on his own. After letting them sit for a while, hed often come back and tweak them a bit, sometimes far beyond their initial form. Ive got four or five versions of some of them, he says. I think River Bends went through about 50 transformations in tempo, feel, and melody. Consequently, there are three other versions that I could easily turn into other songs.
But thats for another project, on another day. For now, thanks to Tim OReagan, even those who admire his contributions to The Jayhawks will be caught off guard by the gifts hes been nurturing, more or less in secret.
In fact, you can forget for now, at least that give the drummer some idea. OReagan a romantic, a philosopher, a wry observer of lifes oddities, an artist who is here to stay, and sure, a drummer too gets his due on Tim OReagan, on his own terms.
Join Tim's iSquad