This recording may go under the moniker of Boyd Tinsley, but it's definitely not a solo venture in the literal sense of the word. The strikingly cut Tinsley, who is best known as the violinist for Dave Matthews Band, receives ample help from a variety of sources for his first solo try outside of his college band behemoth.
The most pressing argument for this solo album being a little more than "solo" is in the song credits. Chris Bruce, who has done a bunch of different work (bass, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, six string bass, programming, engineering, mastering, mixing) for a bunch of different artists (Seal, the Waterboys, Solomon Burke, Alanis Morissette, Evan & Jaron, Me'Shell Ndege'Ocello), co-writes each one of the tracks minus the final one, "True Reflections", along with Tinsley. Bruce is also the first of the two listed for song credits. In fact, song four, "Listen", is written by Bruce and Doyle Bramhall II, without any extra help from the man who dons the album's cover.
Song eight, "Cinnamon Girl", is a Neil Young cover, which leaves nine tunes co-written by Tinsley; each one finds him playing second fiddle (pun intended). So to call this a solo effort is perhaps a bit of a misnomer, and it smells more of manufactured solo fodder a la Justified or Stripped than Rain Dogs or Blood on the Tracks. Now that we've called it like it is, we can move on.
Starting at the end and working backwards, "True Reflections", which, as previously stated, is the only Tinsley-written tune, is the one track that features the vocals of Dave Matthews. Matthews sings backup on the song and adds some of his signature calling cards with just the few lines he sings: the incoherent sing-babble, the high-pitched squeal, and of course Matthews's South African drawl. All of which I enjoy.
As juxtaposed to a Dave Matthews Band album, "True Reflections" would hew closest to a cross between the (shortened) ballads on Before These Crowded Streets and the homogenous, increasingly adult contemporary approach of Busted Stuff. But really, you'll find little in common, sonorously, with True Reflections and the Dave Matthews Band catalogue. That said, Tinsley's pipes can be misleading at different intervals throughout the disc, and can even fool a person into believing that Dave Matthews has taken the mike, albeit a version of Matthews that has been tamed down in his inflections, doodling, and vocal oddities.
True Reflections, overall, conveys a laid back southern feel, mining some comparisons to southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and the modified indie version of Skynyrd, My Morning Jacket, crossed with a Matthews sonic aesthetic and the Flying Burrito Brothers smushed on top. All the tunes stay concise and highlight little of Tinsley's ability on the violin, although when he does break out and experiment with some violin solos, like on "It's Alright", I am frightfully reminded of Tinsley's solo on DMB's "Ants Marching", which makes the violin part of the album come off as a carbon copy of his previous work.
With contributions on True Reflections from some 34 odd people with two mixers, two producers, and six (!) engineers, I am left wondering if these really are Tinsley's true reflections or just a cloudy amalgam of contributions and half-songs.