DAN TYMINSKI: On Track

Dan Tyminski and Band

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Vermont-native unwittingly inspired a style revolution when he gave George Clooney voice in the Coen brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Its soundtrack—a well-documented phenomenon that scored five Grammys in 2002 (including one for Tyminski’s indelible take on “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”) and moved 8 million units—literally redressed today’s bluegrass fan.

Dan Tyminski and Band

The Vermont-native unwittingly inspired a style revolution when he gave George Clooney voice in the Coen brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Its soundtrack—a well-documented phenomenon that scored five Grammys in 2002 (including one for Tyminski’s indelible take on “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”) and moved 8 million units—literally redressed today’s bluegrass fan.

“We started seeing more cowboys and belt buckles at the shows, but also lots more spiked hair and rock and roll t-shirts,” Tyminski says, laughing, about his gigs with Alison Krauss and Union Station following the film’s release. “It made a lot of people who didn’t listen to roots music turn their head and start digging, start asking, ‘Who do I need to listen to?’ I still see ripples from it today. Now that everything’s so accessible, the ripple effect was huge.”

Celebrate the latest: Tyminski’s second solo effort, Wheels, released June 17 on Rounder Records. Its revolving door welcomes an all-star co-op of Nashville talent—Vince Gill, Mountain Heart’s Adam Steffey and Barry Bales among them—who fortify future festival standards like “Who Showed Who,” “I Ain’t Taking You Back No More” and the title track. Tyminski’s sole original composition “How Many Times,” a buoyant two-step that offsets a heartbreaking narrative, establishes a key highlight.

“Like so many things, that was born out of a need,” the 13-time Grammy winner says. “We had a showcase in two days, and I was upstairs roasting coffee beans. While the beans were roasting, I was asking myself, ‘How many times have I been down this road before?’ I sit down to write the song and I haven’t finished it. I had a guitar in my lap and came up with the first line and the rest of it just wrote itself. I probably put a whopping 20 minutes into that song. The ‘real’ songwriters will be able to pick up on that, I’m sure.”

Tim Stafford’s “How Long Is This Train”—the clear standout amidst a deep and rich collection—provides the album’s most important listen. In a time of unforgiving dividing lines, his poignant and pointed wartime vignette delivers the Middle East to Middle America with a refreshing absence of spin. “The old man stood there waiting for a young man dressed in blue,” Tyminski sings, “And he handed him a neatly folded flag and said, ‘For you.’ He said, ‘Your son he died a hero in the service of this flag.’”

“In these times, you can easily pin that to a lot of different things,” Tyminski explains, “but there was no political statement in mind. I held onto that song for so long—six, seven years—it didn’t make the initial tracking of the record. I couldn’t even remember the song. But after I remembered the first line, I had my hand on my forehead wondering how we could’ve possibly missed it. The thought of almost letting that one slip by would’ve crushed me.”

AGE: 41
HOMETOWN: Rutland, Vermont
FAVORITE SONGWRITER ALBUM: Tony Rice-Church Street Blues

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