Take someone with a penchant for 60's- influenced melodic pop, played with a 70's folk-rock sensibility; flavour it with a dash of good old 80's-tinged introspection and sense of melancholy. What would you have? Well, you'd probably have a pretentious, nostalgia-obsessed, whiny self-indulgent singer/ songwriter twerp who's at least twenty years out of date. So, moving along...
Originally from Northern England
(admittedly a place where introspection and melancholia are quite
rampant), Steve Robinson has been writing and performing in the U.S. for
the past 20 years.
Although currently a solo artist, he spent
the better part of the 80's & 90's performing with Florida-based
folk-rockers, the Headlights. Lending a little Anglo flavour to a
decidedly American band with an obvious affection for the Byrds, Bob
Dylan and the Grateful Dead made for a few interesting musical sparks,
and the marriage lasted a dozen years or so.
Along the way the
band shared the stage with the likes of The Band, The Grateful Dead,
Steve Winwood, the Ramones, Joe Walsh, the Bodeans, the Smithereens, and
the occasional drunken harmonica player asking if he could sit in (the
mistake was made only once); weathered the collapse of their
Nashville-based label on the eve of the release of their aptly titled
"Test the Spirit" album, and ultimately took their love of the Byrds to
the next level by becoming the touring band of Byrds founder/ frontman
Robinson's relationship with the Headlights
proved to be a valuable one, and his exposure to the delights of The
Byrds, Gram Parsons et al, coupled with his long-time love affair with
The Everly Brothers, fostered a growing fondness for tight harmonies,
acoustic guitars, mandolins, harmonicas and the like; sounds that
continue to colour his solo folky-pop (or is it poppy-folk?) recordings
Comments from old friends back in England, concerned
about the Americanisation of his sound ("You sound like a bloody Yank
who's listened to a little too much REM"!)are tempered by the insistence
of Stateside colleagues that his sound is distinctly English; more
musically sympathetic to Morrissey than Stipe. Certainly, a quick listen
to the shadowy, often nostalgic references to his homeland in his songs
confirm that while his sound bears the musical imprint of living in the
U.S. for so long, lyrically he's coming from a different place. Closer
to Neil Finn perhaps, than to Neil Young; rootsy Americana it most
definitely is not. Nor is this closet folkie overtly English in the
Fairport Conventional sense. It's apparent that Robinson is straddling
two cultures here; one foot in each camp, so to speak, and appears quite
comfortable with the arrangement.
So, British or American; Union
Jack or Stars and Stripes - it's red, white and blue either way isn't it?
Call it folky-pop; call it poppy-folk; call it poppycock if you must.
Just don't call him a pretentious, nostalgic-obsessed-whiny,
self-indulgent singer/ songwriter twerp.