O'Connor is the virtuoso Nashville string musician-composer who wins a new award every three or four minutes, but the most noteworthy picking he did on this album (for the PBS soundtrack series of the same name) was with his brain rather than his fingers.
While O'Connor plays violin with his usual deliberate, if sometimes cerebral, style, his bigger contribution came as the producer for this album and with the guest stars he invited to join him. O'Connor blends best with James Taylor, whose loosey-goosey style is ideal for the Revolutionary folk song "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier." Wynton Marsalis was another inspired choice, adding the big, emotional sound of his trumpet to "Brave Wolfe," a tribute to the British Gen. James Wolfe. Classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma appears too, blending smoothly with O'Connor on the 18th-century composition "When Bidden to the Wake or Fair" and O'Connor's own "Song of the Liberty Bell," which evokes "Auld Lang Syne."
The familiar reel "Devil's Dream" is the lightest track, but the whole album is eminently listenable—the sort of collection that might have made the charts back in 1776. (Sony Classical)