Tinsley’s Rock

Michael Lucarz

Boyd Tinsley gets by with a little help from his friends on “True Reflections,” the debut CD from the man responsible for bringing violin-driven, bluegrass undertones to the forefront of one of music’s most popular acts. The long-time Dave Matthews Band member and Charlottesville, Va., native lets his love light shine with the sleepy Southern harmonies and clean gospel textures that have helped DMB develop its trademark tone over the past decade.

While the task of proving oneself outside the context of a hugely popular, mainstream institution such as the Dave Matthews Band may appear daunting, Tinsley and company seem less concerned about fulfilling trivial expectations and more on creating the steady, mellow vibe that characterizes the entire 11-track CD. More than just a mood record, “True Reflections” features the sonic craftsmanship of guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, a Texas blues-blood whose playing has been recognized by living legends Eric Clapton and Roger Waters. The world-renown Dirty Dozen Brass Band guests as well, along with Dave Matthews himself who contributes background vocals to the CD’s last track.

“It’s Alright” opens the record with a Wallflowers-reminiscent sound, complete with lightly-distorted guitars churning and slow-tempo, spacious chord changes setting up a familiar Tinsley violin solo. “Listen” forces the listener to do just that, with its Matchbox Twenty meets Maggie May bliss. Tinsley’s cover of Neil Young’s classic “Cinnamon Girl” offers a modern but melodious sound that culminates in handclapping rejoicing. But the highlight of the CD is unquestionably its final track, worth the price of admission alone. Tinsley merges lyrical Hendrix-isms with his wrenching violin stroking while Matthews chimes in with his raspy vocals in support of his bandmate. Bramhall makes his six-string sing all the while with his tasteful lead licks and angelic harmonies, a la Mick Taylor when his blues-driven chops would drive “Gimme Shelter” and his Rolling Stones bandmates in the early ’70s.

“True Reflections” works on several levels since Tinsley makes clear that, to quote Duke Ellington, “Music is his mistress and plays second fiddle to none,” no pun intended. Rather than resting on his merits garnered with DMB, Tinsley strives to achieve his own voice and allows his thoughts to shine on each track. And while he probably won’t be quitting his main project, it’s comforting to know that despite his previously attained accolades, Tinsley’s still all about the music.