It’s hard to say anything about Mark O’Connor that hasn’t been said before. An award winning multi-instrumentalist, he’s been on the receiving end of countless kudos ever since he proved himself a teen prodigy in his adolescent years. For the last few decades, he’s been a go-to musician for countless major names — among them, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Yo-Yo Ma, and any number of others. Nevertheless, his family band may be the best example of his dexterity and dynamic, being that it not only spotlights his skills, but those of his wife and children in a communal setting that allows the skills and synchronicity of all involved to clearly be evident. A Musical Legacy provides all the evidence needed.
What’s especially remarkable is the way the quintet manages to integrate such a variety of musical styles without losing the clarity and consistency that flows throughout these live performances. They offer up a pair of instrumental interludes with a grassy feel (Emily’s Reel, Gold Rush), before easily transitioning into a set of songs that run the gamut from traditional standards (Shady Grove, Faded Love, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Little Maggie) to a handful of originals (Butterfly’s Day Out, A Bowl of Bula) without any disruption to the flow. The playing is, as might be expected, superb, but more than that, it’s the verve and vitality evident in each of these offerings that makes this effort shine.
That said, it ought to be noted that A Musical Legacy is actually a reissue of the O’Connor Family original Live album for Mark’s OMAC label, with a pair of bonus tracks added on. Those who pay close attention the song titles or peer at the fine print on the back cover might be disappointed to discover that it becomes a repeat purchase. The extra tracks — the rousing It’s In My Blood, featuring guest producer Zac Brown, and the tender tones of Casino may well be worth the cost as far as more fanatical fans are concerned, but why O’Connor and company chose to reprise the rest seems something of a mystery. As prolific as he’s proven himself to be over the past decades (the inner sleeve notes share the fact that he’s released 45 albums in 45 years), it would seem that it wouldn’t take more than minimal effort to put together some live holdovers.
Then again, A Musical Legacy might have been meant as an introduction for those who were heretofore unaware. We can go with that premise but still hope that something new will soon be finished and forthcoming.
UPDATE December 16: After reading this review, Mark asked us to add these comments from him.
“I released the O’Connor Band Live CD last year as mainly something to sell at our concerts. However, we did not play that many concerts this last year due to other projects, and we did not sell any on the Zac Brown Band tour that the band opened as well. When we recorded the two Zac Brown-produced tracks last year, they did not have any designation for an album, and I thought they should ultimately. So the idea of joining these seemed logical, since there are no more recordings with Zac in the pipeline. I remastered these two tracks to go with the live tracks for A Musical Legacy.
I am also working on producing yet another live album on the O’Connor Band featuring Maggie, Kate Lee, and Forrest which is due next year and that will feature the music we have been playing on my annual An Appalachian Christmas tours. I worried about an abundance of live releases all inside 2 years if I was I to do even more live recordings this year. Receiving very limited distribution anyway, I decided to take down and cancel the Live CD as a release by itself. I repackaged those live recordings as they create the ideal artistic arc I intended for the band at this time, joining them with the two Zac Brown tracks that had been waiting for an album. This is now a 70-minute release with 16 tracks.
A Musical Legacy are some of my favorite recordings I have released!”