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Tad Robinson – Back in style

Severn Records 2010

10 tracks; 47.21 minutes

This is the 50th release on Severn which has established itself on the blues and roots scene, particularly for those who appreciate well crafted and produced soul blues albums. Darrell Nulisch and Lou Pride also record for Severn, but top of the tree for me is Tad Robinson who returns with his third CD for the label. Produced by Tad, with label boss David Earl and bass player and composer Steve Gomes, the CD is full of the smooth soul vocals we have come to expect from Tad.

For those new to Tad’s music, he hails from NYC but moved to Chicago in the 1980’s where he soon became part of the blues scene, playing harp and singing. His first real break was recording with Dave Specter on the 1994 Delmark release “Blueplicity”. That led to two of his own CDs on Delmark before the switch to Severn in 2004 for “Did you ever wonder” which was nominated for a BMA for Soul/Blues album of the year, as was the follow-up “A New Point of View” in 2007. In all Tad has gathered five BMA nominations and it would be a surprise if this new CD did not follow suit.

Now based in Indianapolis, Tad has become better known both through the quality of his recordings and festival appearances in the States and in Europe. Last year he appeared at the Cognac Blues Festival and ran a week long blues workshop in southern France; this year he was on the Tampa Bay Blues Festival for a second time.

One of the great advantages that Tad has is the availability of the Severn house band which gives him superb accompaniment on all his CDs. Steve Gomes on bass, Robb Stupka on drums, Alex Schultz on guitar and Kevin Anker or Benjie Porecki on keys are consistently excellent. On several tracks a horn section (including Wayne Jackson of the Memphis horns) adds colour and a real old school soul feel.

Of the ten tracks Tad contributed to five, as does co-producer Steve Gomes (who also co-wrote one song with label stable mate Darrell Nulisch). The emphasis is definitely on Tad’s voice and this time out he only plays harp on two tracks. Two covers are included; “Just out of reach” was a track on an Atlantic album by Sam Dees and “You name it I’ve had it” was a Chess single by Clarence Shields. Both are what might be described as ‘lost soul gems’ and I had never heard either song before, but they fit Tad’s voice like a glove.

Lyrically we are in love territory throughout. I particularly liked the chorus of “Sunday morning woman”: ‘We’re in two different worlds; she’s a Sunday morning woman, I’m just a late night Saturday man’. So, how can this dilemma be resolved? The answer lies in the later lyric: ‘When I disappoint her, you’d never see it on her face. Is it the way her momma raised her? Or is it just her natural grace’. What a charming lyric!

Everything on the CD works really well, but if you have to single any tracks out, try the opening and closing cuts. “Rained all night” sounds like Al Green, with lovely horns and a lilting chorus – a great start to the album. Closer “Get back to love” features a pretty guitar part that underpins the vocal alongside warm backing vocals. However, you could pick any of the ten tracks and be guaranteed a great performance.

Another very strong album from Tad, well worth investigating.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He went on his first Legendary Blues Cruise in January 2010 and had such a good time he will be back in 2011!

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