After initially planning to sample it a little and then settling back to get the full experience later, I couldn't let go. Best laid plans don't you know? More than an hour later, after two consecutive play throughs, my feet were still tapping. This is flat out enjoyable music, artfully performed and with just enough lyrical commentary to give it some serious bite.
This was my first exposure to Tim O'Brien and it surely won't be my last. The musical marketing powers that be have elected to place a tag of "traditional folk" on his music and that's probably fair, but I would suggest that fans of bluegrass, Jim Croce, country, ethnic international and the folk music of the 60's will enjoy him as well. If that sounds like an eclectic mix of genres, consider that just in my initial sitting I counted musical or thematic hints of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bill Monroe and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
How can I begin to list my favorites from this album? First there is an ode to lost love entitled "Phantom Phone Call." It's not often that I grab a pen to jot down a throwaway line from a song, but how can you not notice "mobile phone is a threat to the human race"? Trust me, it's completely appropriate in the context of the song.
Then there are the more political "World of Trouble" and This World was Made for Everyone." Listen closely, as you might not catch the irony. In case you're a little distracted, listen again. O'Brien pays attention and he's not reluctant to let you know. For those people in a relationship, "Safe in Your Arms" provides a wonderfully romantic lyric that should find its way into thousands of hand scratched love notes too.
This is a solo effort, a talented musician settling down in a comfortable place, just picking and singing; for himself, someone he cares for or just the world at large. And anyone that listens will be unable to restrain their toes from tapping.
One of the interesting facets of the liner notes, comes with the identification of the instrument he uses on each song, from a 1924 vintage mandolin to a 1998 banjo. I can't help but wonder whether each song was written with a specific instrument in mind, or whether the instrument bent the song into its final form. Either way, in Tim's hands the sound is wonderful!
If there's any justice in the recording industry (and I have my doubts) Chameleon is going to take the Best Folk Recording of 2008. "Chameleon" is a CD worth owning. Download tracks if you must, but this CD is of a whole, and it hits all the right notes. According to the liner notes, Tim O'Brien took his instruments (and he plays a lot of them at virtuoso level) and a bunch of song ideas into the woodshed and didn't come out until he had this recording. Time well spent. "Chameleon" … more
This is the first time that I've ever heard of Tim O'Brien. Listening to the snippets on the product page enticed me enough to give this album a shot through the Vine program. I was quite surprised. Take a little bit of folk, a little bit of bluegrass, add some straight-up hillbilly and a little politics and you have O'Brien's latest album, "Chameleon." Playing instruments that span a time period from 1922 to 2004, O'Brien peppers his traditional sounding tunes with some very modern topics. "Phantom … more
Tim O'Brien's new solo release finds him in very fine voice and delightfully showcasing his skills on a variety of stringed instruments. In addition to being consistently tuneful, his voice has a warmth and richness which I found reminiscent of the great English Folk singer Roy Bailey. The 16 tracks on this album incorporate a broad range of traditions, including various shades of Country/Folk and Blues. None of the songs themselves are startlingly, or even memorably, original. … more