Robinson comes back strong with latest record 'Day into Night'

Sunday, June 7, 2015
The cover of Tad Robinson's "Day into Night," released April 21 on Severn Records, features the work of Putnam County artist Cindy O'Dell. Robinson said the photo, a landscape near O'Dell's Fillmore home, "captured some of the imagery from the lyrics." (Courtesy photo)

Apparently doing things right takes time.

When Tad Robinson released his latest effort "Day into Night" on April 21, it came nearly five years after the release of "Back in Style," the soul blues singer's critically-acclaimed 2010 record.

While the Greencastle-based artist wouldn't have minded less lag time, he is proud of the quality of the new songs after all that time.

"It was about a year late, but it was worth the wait for me," Robinson told the Banner Graphic.

A number of factors contributed to the wait, including recording for a small label (Severn Records) that has something like 30 artists on its imprint, all while maintaining high standards about what it releases.

"David Earl (Severn founder) tells me, 'Tad, our grandkids are going to listen to these records,'" Robinson said. This attention to quality means records are made in two or three weeks, not two days.

"You really want to savor that process because that's the time that I find I'm the most creative."

This time around, listeners will find Robinson's tunes introspective, content and upbeat. They are the songs of a man with a great job and loving family.

"When I look around at my wonderful wife (Amy), whom I love deeply, and my great family, the happiness gets reflected back into the music," Robinson said. "Some of the songs are celebrations of that reality."

Originals like "Mellow in Love" and "Love Is a Winner" reflect not only that reality, but also an aspect of the blues tradition that's often overlooked.

Singing the blues doesn't always mean "singing the blues."

"There is a misunderstanding about blues-based music that it's all about crying in your beer," Robinson said. "There is an aspect of blues and soul and other American roots music that is a celebration. Sure, some of the songs are dark, but it's balanced by songs of uplift, of humility, of contentment."

Another song reflecting this is the Bobby Bland cover "Lead Me On," which provided one of the guiding principles of the record with its lyric "let your love be my only guide." Love as the guide concept was important as the 12 tracks developed.

"I think that's something we tried to have as a guide throughout the record," Robinson said.

The difference in pure blues and soul blues also comes through in the instrumentation of the album. While the blues has long been a guitar player's genre, soul blues has more room for the horns of Severn's house band, and especially for the organ of Kevin Anker, who serves as keyboardist, producer, frequent co-writer (along with bassist Steve Gomes) and in Robinson's words, "right-hand man."

"Kevin's contribution is felt in the layering of keyboards," Robinson said. "He's really the last word on arrangements. When other sidemen work with me, they really go to Kevin with questions."

The subtlety of Anker's work puts the songs, and Robinson's voice, front and center.

"There are some great guitar slingers on this record, but there are more songs," Robinson said. "Their approach is far more seasoned and more of accompaniment than is often the case in blues."

This approach also means that Robinson's trademark harmonica is featured on just one track, "While You Were Gone."

"I kind of put the harp down on this one," Robinson said. "I think maybe in the future we'll do more of a stone blues record but for this one, I put the harp down."

With that said, the record still has some "raunchy barroom blues," and "While You Were Gone" is a strong example.

Putnam County fans will have the chance to hear a number of tunes from "Day into Night," as well as some old favorites, when Robinson plays ParkFest at the Bob Flanigan Bandshell in Robe-Ann Park on Tuesday evening. The show kicks off with Mike Van Rensselaer (see sidebar) at 6:30 p.m., with Robinson to follow.

"The great thing about putting out a new record is you have a new set," Robinson said. "You have about an hour show. It gets you out of any kind of slump you've been in as an artist."

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