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Mark Robinson - Quit Your Job - Play Guitar

Blind Chihuahua Records

11 tracks/48:19

There has been a dramatic reduction in recent years in the costs associated with getting a cd professionally manufactured. And musicians now have a variety of creative avenues available to them on the internet that allow them to market their recordings inexpensively while building a solid fan base. The days of needing the support of a major record label to bring a project to fruition are long gone. This leveling of the playing field can be a blessing - and a curse. We now get a chance to hear talented artists that not that long ago would have remained local legends. It is also difficult to find these gems amidst the glut of recordings that are now flooding the market.

Guitarist Mark Robinson has finally arrived at the point of realizing his dream of having a CD of his own. A native of Indiana, Robinson spent time in Chicago bars playing the blues before returning to Bloomington, where he spent two decades toiling at a day job. Six years ago he finally had enough, quitting his "monkey job" and moving to Nashville with the intent of making his living playing music. He also has a studio in the Music City where he has recorded and produced a number projects for local musicians.

The multi-talented Robinson handles all of the guitar parts as well as the dobro, banjo and lap steel guitar. He wrote five songs, co-wrote two other tracks and filled the role of producer. His soulful vocals bring life to his tales of heartache and betrayal in the midst of pool halls and beer joints. The rhythm section is Paul Griffith on drums and David Roe on bass while Randy Handley and Johnny Neel cover the keyboard parts. There are a number of backing vocalists on the disc, including the great Tracy Nelson on one cut.

Robinson's rendition of the traditional tune "Poor Boy opens the disc with an insistent beat and an edgy vocal from the leader. The band rocks hard on "Runaway Train", a Robinson original with the leader's slide guitar and Ben Graves wailing harmonica lines creating the sense of urgency needed for this tale of a man on the run from the law. Even better is the horn-driven arrangement on "Back in the Saddle", with Robinson delivering a performance in the classic style of the Rolling Stones. On "Back-up Plan" the band switches gears, laying down a rollicking New Orleans R&B groove with strong contributions from Handley and Dennis Taylor on tenor sax. Robinson utilizes the banjo and dobro to create a country-tinge feel to start "Memphis Won't Leave Me Alone" before he turns up the heat on the lap steel guitar. "Payday Giveaway" was written by Bill Wison, who Robinson played with for years, and describes many of the vices that can rob a hard-earned paycheck from a working man. The repetitive lyrics on "I Know You'll be Mine" are offset by Robinspn's inspired guitar work.

Given the opportunity to show off his skill on guitar, Robinson quickly provides plenty of evidence as to why he had the confidence to follow his dream. He invigorates the the classic instrumental "Sleepwalk", picking out intricate lines that embellish the melody while Neel on the organ helps create the proper mood. "The Fixer" is a slow blues that could have been written about the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction. The leader plays with restraint, letting his solo slowly build to a brief outburst that ends abruptly as Robinson switches back to the vocal. The disc closes with another highlight, "Try One More Time", possibly the best of Robinson's compositions. His pleading vocal perfectly captures the emotional turmoil of a man struggling to carry on after the end of a love affair.

Undoubtedly Mark Robinson is justifiably proud of how his "dream" disc turned out. His mix of musical styles will prevent people from pigeon-holing his work as anything more than American roots music as he delivers on all counts - song writing, production, singing and guitar playing. Hopefully he can manage to grab the attention of enough listeners so that this solid effort gets the attention it deserves.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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