Boyd Tinsley

True Reflections (RCA/Bama Rags)

Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley probably could have sold a helluva lot of records had he simply released an instrumental album of virtuosic fiddle-dee-dee jams. In fact, when the annoyingly redundant-yet-undeniably-talented band's legions of frattooed fans first caught wind of the dreadlocked 39-year-old's debut release, that is probably what they expected to hear.

Well, the joke's on them -- which is part of what makes True Reflections such a satisfying album. Boldly restricting the violin solos to back-bench status, Tinsley instead showcases slow-burn guitar solos, pretty female harmonies, no-bullshit lyrics, and his own unique singing voice -- comparable in disposition to Negro Problem frontman Mark "Stew" Stewart's husky tenor. Though Matthews himself makes a guest appearance on the album's title track -- a DMB concert staple -- Tinsley spends the rest of the record consciously eschewing the mothership's signature drawn-out jams, giving way to some brilliant slide work from veteran guitarist Doyle Bramhall II. Only once -- on "Long Time to Wait" -- does Bramhall's twangy six-string approach jam-band proportions, and even then, it's a sleepy buildup to crescendo. Tinsley's use of Toshi Reagon and Lisa Germano are equally inspiring, with Reagon's harmonies lifting "Show Me" and an innovative cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" well beyond what might otherwise be flirtations with mediocrity. Given his flamboyant stage presence, Tinsley shows surprising restraint and lyrical insight into Americana, which is, perhaps, True Reflections' most impressive characteristic. It's the sort of album a spurned Atlantic Coast lover might take on a post-breakup road trip down I-95 in a slightly rusted early-'80s Lincoln.

 
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