Music has occasionally been born of a couple of friends playing both new and familiar songs in a relaxed setting. Words that are often used to describe the music they make are "natural" or "unaffected." Examples would include John Hartford's Morning Bugle, Hartford, David Grisman, and Mike Seeger's Retrograss, and Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott's Real Time. The songs on Real Time were recorded in Scott's living room over the period of a week. Both musicians play multiple instruments including banjo, mandolin, guitar, and bouzouki; they also exchange lead vocals and sing some very fine harmony. Both the song choice and songwriting add to this project. Hank Williams'"Weary Blues from Waiting" receives an acoustic revision, with both singers sharing lead vocals and providing affecting harmony. O'Brien sings a charged version of "Little Sadie" driven by Scott's aggressive guitar playing. Part of the beauty of this album is how fresh and vital these traditional songs become with these simple and straightforward arrangements. Real Time also contains a handful of refined originals, including O'Brien's "Walk Beside Me" and "I'm Not Gonna Forget You." Scott has written the impressive "There Ain't No Easy Way," complete with the same soulful singing found on his last release, Family Tree. There are even moments when Scott's vocal style reminds one of the soulful delivery of Little Feat's Lowell George. Real Time brings together two artists who love to make music and who give the impression that making good music is as simple as hanging out with friends. While this may not be how all good music is made, it has produced a gem of an album in the hands of Scott and O'Brien. Fans of both artists, and fans of good traditional and folk music, should enjoy this one.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.