If you were to create a bionic band that compresses together the dazzling rhythms of B.T. Express, the sexy vocals of Prince, and the electro-funk sensibility of Afrika Bambaataa, you'd wind up with something similar to Plantlife. It's hard to pigeonhole the L.A. band's style, but like predecessors James Brown and Sly Stone, Plant Life has a knack for capturing the true essence of heartfelt soul music.
O'Brien is known for his traditionalist outings (2005's "Fiddler's Green" is a stunning tour of classic folk varietals). But even then he's looked a lot like a modern solo bard, and it's that persona that appears in "Chameleon." The LP is nearly ideal: coffeehouse ruminations with a serious folk grounding.