Folk artist Tim O’Brien dazzles on his universally appealing Chameleon disc. Recorded sparingly inside Gary Paczosa’s garage, much of the material on Chameleon revolves around O’Brien and various instruments, with rare songwriting accompaniment from John Hadley and David Olney on "When in
Starting with "Where’s Love Come From" on a 1943 Gibson J-45 guitar, O’Brien ponders the human strengths and weaknesses involving haunted and daunting subject matter. A perpetual gambler resides inside the nefarious workings of "Hoss Race," a deeply detailed character study that O’Brien backs with nimble finger picking on bouzouki. Olney and Hadley add edgy, somber lyrical touches to the elegiac masterwork, "The Garden."
O’Brien has reached back deep into the wellspring of treasures from folk music’s storied past of resonating social protest and rich, layered storytelling on Chameleon. He burns a fresh, new path for the genre, drawing upon a stepping stone of chapter recordings that began on Sugarhill Records with Two Journeys in 2001 and the critically acclaimed Traveler in 2003, which spawned 2005’s double-dose exhilaration of Cornbread Nation and Fiddler’s Green. The latter expanded the contemplative powers of O’Brien’s vision, and the highly regarded tunesmith was rewarded with a new legion of admirers.
Chameleon is destined for even greater mass appeal through humming ditty’s like the memory piece, "Megna’s" which incorporates call and response techniques a la Pete Seeger, and further cements Tim O’Brien’s mark to the modern musical landscape.
Chameleon is out now on Proper American.