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Chris Clouse - Chimera

Released on Bellstar Records, 2006

According to the dictionary, a chimera is a “mythological, fire-breathing monster, commonly represented with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail”. This is actually one of a few different definitions for “chimera”. Another good one is “a horrible or unreal creature of the imagination; a vain or idle fancy”’. Far from being a horrible monstrosity, Chris Clouse’s debut album Chimera is a creative and well crafted amalgamation of quality vocals, smooth guitar groves, and some electronic backbeats.

The title of Clouse’s album is really a reflection of the kind of music one finds on Chimera. It’s an eclectic kind of folk rock that mixes disparate elements and succeeds in engaging the listener for the most part. Clouse has been compared to Dave Matthews and Ryan Adams and to say he falls somewhere in between is not too far off the mark. But, one wonders if Clouse’s sound is distinctive enough to enable the album to really breakthrough.

Chris starts things off with the hip hop inflected, “Walk Away”, a somewhat regretful track that reflects on decisions not made, poor decisions made, and just about everything in between. It’s an interesting track and works for the most part, but the ground Close covers in this one feels well trodden by just about every artist with a similar sound.

Moving on is the latin infused “Pedro and I” that has a rhythm that is bound to drive listeners to the dance floor. Markedly more upbeat in tempo than the somewhat desolate “Walk Away”, “Pedro and I” covers terrain that is no less dark. Specifically, the life and times of fugitives on the run is the lyrical focus. “Pedro and I” sounds and feels remarkably similar to some of Jason Mraz’s more heavily played tracks.

One of the more powerful tracks on Chimera is the angst ridden “Where Are You Now”. Dreams elude, hope can fade, and many of us are left with this question. Clouse’s vocals are powerful and moving on this simple, yet potent track that is accompanied by Clouse ably strumming his guitar. This spartan approach results in what is likely the best track on the album.

The remainder of Chimera is a mix of rock, folk, and electronic infusion. Chris has a sound that likely will appeal to Jason Mraz and Dave Matthews fans. Arguably, there’s a large market for a sound like Clouse’s, but there is something about Chris’ vocals and lyrics that sounds strikingly similar to a glut of artists (aside from the aforementioned) who are already established.

This is not to take anything away from Clouse’s clear talents, but it’s not clear that Chimera has a distinctive enough sound to enable Clouse to carve out a niche for himself. This is an admirable debut effort and one can only hope that Clouse’s talent will enable him to achieve some degree of success in the future.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars