Mandolin Troubadour is an EP disc featuring six original songs by Oberlin, who made it into the top ten finalists for the 2013 Telluride Troubadour Contest. All the songs are performed with Oberlin’s trademark combination of singing accompanied by his solo mandolin, which provides picked single-note lines and double-stops mixed with both strummed and chopped chords. No one else is doing anything quite like this with the mandolin.
But just to make it interesting, Oberlin plays three different mandolins on this recording, his usual Collings MF5V, a new Collings MTO, and a 1924 Gibson Lloyd Loar F5. The order of mandolins and tracks goes MF5V, MTO, F5, and then repeats in that same order. You get to hear each one twice. This is decidedly cool and serves as a kind of mini- Tone Poems project with a Brian Oberlin slant. It’s fascinating to A-B-C the different mandolins and be able to hear their individual sound characteristics. Oberlin’s songs are catchy and pleasing, his playing is full, complex, and virtuosic, and his singing is engaging and heartfelt. All told,Mandolin Troubadour is definitely worth picking up.