Witty and Provocative Stellar Collection of O’Brien Songs

Tim O’Brien

Chameleon (Proper American Recordings, 2008)

I have always felt that the mark of any worthy musician is whether he or she exudes an air of having a blissfully good time; well, Tim O’Brien surely sails over the top in that regard with his latest offering Chameleon. After reaching the heights with his winning a 2006 Grammy Award for his recording Fiddler’s Green, as well as plucking two International Bluegrass Music Association awards, O’Brien is now back with a rip-roaring, toe-tapping, hair-pulling solo CD worthy of every accolade in the bluegrass book. With co-producer and engineer extraordinaire Gary Paczosa, Mr. O’Brien has created a stellar collection of songs that are sure to garner the two more prizes.

Chameleon is a dazzling collection of gems full of the bright, gallivanting mastery of fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin and guitar that Mr. O’Brien has built his considerable career on over the years, but it is his way with song lyrics that makes the facets of color burn long after the light has faded. "Where’s Love Come From" blazes forth with a sunny jangle of Gibson guitar and O’Brien’s keen lyrics. One of my favorites has to be the hauntingly romantic "The Garden," tinged with weariness of a mournful mountain song.


"Red Dog in the Morning" strikes at the heart of bluegrass banjo nostalgia, so much so that it might as easily come rolling in on the mountain mist or across the red clay dust of a lonely Georgia crossroads. Full of fiddle goodness and easy warmth, O’Brien rips through "Phantom Phone Call" and sails along with the title track " Chameleon" that possesses a gentle James Taylor feel.

Slyly tucked into meat of the CD are the smart and savvy political commentaries from Mr. O’Brien that includes the wry "This World Was Made For Everyone" and the edgy "World of Trouble." I couldn’t possibly leave out the barstool ballad "The Only Way to Never Hurt" or the contagiously joyful "Get Out There And Dance" that might just resurrect the good natured sing-a-long.

Chameleon is witty, provocative and ultimately proof that Tim O’Brien is good company.

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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.