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Tim O'Brien

Chameleon – 2008 (Proper)

Reviewed by J.P. Tausig

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CDs by Tim O'Brien

The whole effort is just Tim O'Brien, no other artists, singing and playing 16 original songs with only one instrument for each tune. They range from the jazz-based "Where's Love Come From" to the gospel tune "Father Forgive Me." Listeners will also find Celtic influences in "The Garden," a somber stately waltz with soulful lyrics. "Phantom Phone Call" is a timely tune sung against a single fiddle that's about a cell phone. O'Brien's talent as a song-writer is further demonstrated in "World of Trouble," a song that's anchored in today's issues of politics and global warming.

One complaint is that several of the arrangements are predictable, singing, then an instrumental solo, then singing with an instrumental end. And several songs share nearly identical rhythms, which may not wear well.

But many of the songs set your toes tapping or make you want to join in. After winning a 2006 Grammy for "Fiddler's Green" and several IBMA Awards, one would expect a bigger-is-better approach with more band-members and guest artists. Instead this CD is an honest expression of the joy of music, not an ego-filled demonstration of technical abilities.