It's My Song Dammit!
When "A Singer of Songs" appeared on Cash Unearthed, the box set of previously unreleased material put out by American Recordings shortly after Johnny Cash's death, many people assumed it was a Cash composition. One well-known music writer even called "the brilliant 'Singer of Songs'" a remake of a lesser-known gem from Cash's own back catalog. Given the maturity of the lyrics and the Cash-like simplicity of the music, that reaction was understandable. The song does sound like something Johnny Cash might have written later in life. Surprisingly, however, "A Singer of Songs" was written by Tim O'Connell at the tender age of 29. Relatively unknown among music business insiders in Nashville, where he has lived since 1973, O'Connell has ignored the Music Row popularity contests and focused instead on his songwriting. While working day jobs through the years as a federal livestock inspector, a farm magazine editor, an air express courier, a wildlife specialist, and a park ranger, O'Connell continued to write songs, year after year after year. "Just by chance, really, I always ended up with jobs where I spent a lot of time alone in a pickup truck," Tim says, "driving down the highways and back roads of Middle Tennessee. There's no better place to write songs." Which brings us to the matter at hand: ten songs written while looking at the world through a windshield. What's the format? Who knows? There are love songs, a gospel song, a fun driving blues that makes you want to holler, even a pretty country duet with Jill Walsh (remember country duets?). "I like all kinds of music, and I write all kinds of music," Tim says. "My first question is always, 'How good are the songs?'" Our reply: Very good, sir, very good.