The album, called Dream Life, features 14 local rockers, including Terry Anderson of The Woods, Jeff Carlson of The Gladhands, Mike Krause of $2 Pistols, and original Flying Pig members Robert Truesdale and Bill McCarthy. Dream Life producer Wes Lachot, who appeared on the Chris Stamey and Friends Christmas album, also plays piano and bass on the record.
It sure sounds like a dream life: Make a record with your best friends, then split before everyone starts to fight. But the songs aren't all happy chug-a-lugs like you might expect. For starters, "Elsbeth" is a tender instrumental tune carried by pedal steel, memorializing the baby daughter O'Connell and his wife lost to a fatal illness. And "New Orleans" recounts the demise of his doomed hero, Gram Parsons, to a four-count beat Parsons would no doubt approve of. But Dream Life has another mood; one that sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis joined to Big Star. On "The Wayward Wind," O'Connell roars, "I was born a next of kin/To the wayward wind." Likewise, "Please Give Me Something" tears it up with noisy honky tonk, driven home on bucking Telecasters.
So whether it's the Byrds' sad sunset sound or The Replacements' mad sunrise raucousness, O'Connell's approach to the form is gleaming with pure country rock intentions. And he was doing it long before the greasy, corduroy-chic resurgence of today's alternative country. Heck, he was doing it before Whiskeytown had fake IDs.