Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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Robinson & Woltil Shadow Play review

A heartfelt thank you to Andres Kabel, for his rather eloquent review of Shadow Play. It's the first one out of the gate and it's a beaut. Thank you sir!


Friday, October 07, 2022

What we did on our Covid holidays...


Cycle, the last Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil release back in 2015 holds a special place in my heart. A fair amount of blood, sweat, tears and grinding of teeth went into it. As I remember, we originally envisioned it as a bloated double album set; almost a willful attempt to be as unbearably pretentious as possible. Ultimately, common sense prevailed as we jettissoned several songs and a rather pompous instrumental segue section, ending up with a rather more sensible 12-track album (13 tracks, if you count the opening 20-second prelude that somehow eluded the editing scissors.)

Shadow Play proved to be an altogether smoother affair. Songs came together quite quickly and it seemed like we zoomed from exchanging early sketched song ideas to hashing out final mixdown decisions in the blink of an eye. I really can't take much credit for this; much of it was down to Ed's alarming work ethic and otherworldy musical focus. His instincts are such, that instrumental touches he adds to our songs almost always seem to hit the mark. He does it so quickly too. I mean, I'm really quite happy with my musical contributions to a slew of the songs we've worked on together, but I also know they're usually a result of considerable trial and error. I'll add and replace guitar and vocal parts over a few weeks until I feel I've landed on the right approach. Ed, on the other hand, will receive a song of mine via email, and the next day he'll toss it back painted with instrumental colours that I didn't even realise I wanted. Mental.

Now, I don't know if this album is better than Cycle (whatever that might mean) but for me, I think that making this one might have been even more enjoyable, in a way. Whether it's due to getting older and more sappy, limping through the jarring stops and starts of the pandemic/lockdown, or simply the realization of just how special it is to have a musical foil like Ed to work with, I'm really not sure. I do feel like our hearts are in it though, and I just treasure it. 

The album will soon be available at the usual streaming sites (iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music etc) and hard copies in a swanky gatefold CD wallet with lovely artwork courtesy of Ed will also be available at Bandcamp. Speaking of which, we’re set up for pre-orders of Shadow Play at the Bandcamp site. You get 2 tracks now (a power-pop nugget called Kickstart and a rather bouncy, Beatlesque gem called Life On a Trampoline, which features XTC’s Dave Gregory on guitar duty), plus the complete album the moment it’s released. Have a listen here:  Shadow Play

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Highly recommended, apparently...


"With The Headlights connection, it will probably be labelled Folk Pop, but Swallowing The Sun is more Pastoral Pop. It is a beautifully arranged album, gentle, magnificently moody, whilst still being melodic. Plenty of hooks, but far more it is about a vibe." - Don Valentine, I Don't Hear a Single

Really kind words from Mr Valentine, for sure. Don't know if he hears a single or not, but I'll take it anyway...


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wild God

When I was a kid, religious people were towering figures, rather than cowering ones. Being a good Christian was hard; it was a lofty goal that took a lot of work, commitment and, well…goodness. For starters, you were expected to look after your fellow man without lusting after his wife, tend to the poor and infirm, forgive those who would do you harm, and be able to drop all manner of biblical verses into casual conversation. When asked for your favorite bible quote, answering, “5 Corinthians walked into a bar...” probably means you're not up to the task. 

Now, despite my smart-arse attitude and assorted moral failings, I always respected those who called themselves Christians and did their best to live up to the ideals of their faith. I still do, despite the preponderance of loudly hypocritical bible thumpers in the political realm who wield their holy book as weapons of a culture war of their own creation. 

Those who attend church and quietly follow the teachings of Jesus Christ with kindness and love in their hearts are inspiring; fetid prosperity-gospel charlatans fleecing the vulnerable, and dog-whistling politicos spouting out random bible verses to justify their hideous deeds and rampant cowardice is just nauseating. It’s so far away from what I was taught about the Christian faith, that I can’t help but think that if Jesus were to return (and assuming he could get through immigration), he would kick their sorry arses.

Wild God (lyrics)

Heading south with butter melting in your mouth 
It’s drawn and quartered messenger for tea 
Egos grazed and voices raised and there’s no doubt 
You exhale and I’ll forget to breathe 

Deva fly on broken wing 
Church of rage and idiot king 
Sing again 
Eat your words and spew your junk 
Fill your boots till you’re all sunk 
Drunk on wild god 

Silk pajama dramas by the kitchen sink 
You kill all conversation with your thumbs 
There’s no shame, there's no taboo, just doublethink 
Gift the kool aid knowing they’ll succumb 

Deva fly on broken wing 
Church of rage and idiot king 
Sing again and again 
Eat your words and spew your junk 
Fill your boots till you’re all sunk 
Drunk on wild god 
Drunk on wild, wild god 

Look who’s crawling out from underneath his stone 
Loosey-goosey stepping as he goes 
There’s no rest for the wicked or the innocent 
in sad saluting, empty suited rows 

Deva fly on broken wing 
Church of rage and idiot king 
Sings again and again 
Eat your words and spew your junk 
Fill your boots till you’re all sunk 
Drunk on wild god 
Drunk on wild, wild god

Monday, June 07, 2021

Living in the moment?


Another silly one from Swallowing The Sun; one totally deserving of a little silly visual accompaniment.

Emptying your head in order to become fully immersed in the moment sounds simple enough, but it's a royal struggle isn't it? I think it might be a little easier to do in a song than in everyday life. That is, until your dog barges into your studio during a vocal take. As you can hear, I left in Finley's contribution at the close of the song. It seemed like the zen thing to do. Or something.

Can you dig it?

"Robinson’s regal melodies offer the essence of a timeless treasure, with each track as absolutely effusive as the next. This Sun shines brightly indeed." - Lee Zimmerman

As befitting a self-confessed music nerd, I've perused many a copy of Goldmine Magazine over the years, so I was more than a little chuffed to see that Lee Zimmerman had written a few kind words for the publication in question: https://www.goldminemag.com/columns/indie-spotlight-steve-robinson-brian-dolzani-evvan-and-others

Monday, May 03, 2021

Raising a glass to an old friend...

It's tough to know where to begin when talking about my old Headlights bandmate, Steve Connelly. Over the years, his influence on me has been quite immense. 

In the summer of '82, I left the UK armed with a couple of guitars, an armful of XTC, Jam, and Echo & The Bunnymen records, a clean change of underwear, and the vague notion of finding a band who might be in search of a foreign singer with no concrete plans, limited funds and no work permit. Looking back, it was all a bit ridiculous; a venture doomed to failure that would see me scurrying sheepishly back home when the money ran out. But, when you arrive in a strange land and you're in your early twenties, you pay no mind to such trivialities and get straight to the job at hand: you go to the pub.

In this case, it was Clancy's, a local Irish-themed hangout that somehow managed to avoid selling draught Guinness anywhere on their premises, but did serve up live music 6 nights a week. Someone had suggested going there to see a band called The Headlights; one of the area's best they'd told me.  So, I went along to have a look. Truth be told, they reeled me in rather quickly.

They were a tight and polished band, to be sure, with a big-voiced female singer fronting the band, a swaggering bassist with quite the gift of on-stage gab, an overly talented singing drummer, and a skinny Les Paul-clad lad who played guitar like he couldn't put a foot wrong if he tried. 

During one of their breaks, I approached said guitar player, introduced myself and casually asked if I could give him my number in case he heard of anyone who might be in need of a singer. As it turned out, it was a bit of a life-changing moment, because he chuckled at my suggestion, told me that their singer would soon be leaving the band, and that he'd call me to set up an audition.

I don't remember too much about the audition really, but it must have gone well, because I was playing shows with The Headlights within a few weeks, and would continue to do so for the next dozen or so years. As twee and trite as it may sound, the fact is that over time, the Headlights just became my family. Over the years, we'd come to see each other through assorted bereavements, marriages, divorces, births and even an ill-advised attempt to cover Prince's Purple Rain (don't ask).

Now, it's quite obvious to anyone who has watched Steve Connelly play, that they're watching a special talent. Calling him a great guitar player is akin to saying that Dylan has a way with words, or that Paul McCartney can carry a tune, and quite honestly, no matter how many years pass, listening to him can often be an eyebrow-raising experience for me. There have been so many times, both on stage and in the studio, where I've even found myself on the verge of laughter at the sheer impudence of some of his musical forays. If the mood struck him, he might lurch from an Albert Lee-like countryish chicken-pickin' solo, into a few windmilled Townshendian power chords before shifting into some sort of Richard Thompson-like workout with scales that sounded like they were coming from Istanbul rather than Nashville. He would pull this sort of stunt off almost nightly, and he made it look effortless. 

So, here we are, closing in on 40 years later, and while people still love to see Steve Connelly's on-stage guitar heroics, in my view, Steve has become a more subdued and thoughtful kind of guitar player. Oh, he's still capable of dropping jaws and melting faces and all that, but these days, he seems to have more of an interest in getting to the heart of the musical matter at hand. To my ears, his parts seem more measured and emotionally direct. It's just another layer of the man's talent coming to the fore, I suppose, and it's a beautiful thing to behold.

During the tracking for Swallowing The Sun, my friend and producer, Ed Woltil, had been quite encouraging about the song, Skinful, after I'd expressed doubts about it. It was a bit of a weird one for me, and I wasn't sure about it, but as Ed began to add a few of his own sonic touches, it started sounding pretty good, and I began to feel like it might be a worthwhile addition to the record. I did feel, though, that it was missing a lead instrument of some sort, and so we decided to ask Steve if he might care to add some pedal or lap steel to it. 

Good move. 

Steve ended up sending a couple of beautifully restrained, emotive takes for us to listen to, and Ed took both of them, crafting a mix that when I first heard it, gave me a real lump in the old throat. Skinful went from a hesitant contender to my favourite track on the album. Whether the song is really good, poor or somewhere in between, I don't really know. What I do know, is how it makes me feel when I hear it, and I'm just dead chuffed that for some four minutes and thirty-four seconds, I feel in sync once again with a beloved family member.

How's that for twee and trite?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

After ever happily...

Some of my songs might be a little on the serious side. This is not one of them.