CD: 9 Songs, 28:00 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Gospel, All Original Songs
Remember WALL-E, the Disney/Pixar film about a sanitation robot who reaches for the stars and brings humanity back down to Earth? One of the taglines for the movie was, “After 700 years doing what he was built for – he’ll discover what he’s meant for.” We all have our dreams and our realities. The trick is to merge the two, to make our avocation our vocation, but that doesn’t always happen. Mississippi’s Robert James Starr, after making his first record at eighteen and touring with a strong troupe of musicians throughout the US, only found intermittent fame. While becoming a successful engineer and corporate executive, his dreams of playing the blues never died. Thus he’s released a self-titled album of nine original songs, an enthusiastic fusion of blues, rock, and gospel. Several of these tracks sound similar, but they’re perfect for savoring along with one’s favorite adult beverage.
Starr’s guitar playing and songwriting skills are above average, as is his level of energy. Even on slow songs, one can feel the heat in the music. Listen to “Jesus Comin’ Down” for more evidence of this. Starr’s message is generally positive, but his best work consists of snarky ballads about shady characters (“Gone and Forgotten,” “The Squealer” and “Damn Yellow”). Vocally, he doesn’t sing as much as he talks, holding onto certain notes for emphasis. His efforts are commendable, but don’t contain slick studio effects or laser-precise editing. James and company like their gospel blues raw, from the heart, and peppy. In this, they deliver in spades.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on March 16, 1961, Starr comes from a musical family. By making his career in music, Robert James is following the familial tradition dating back to his grandparents, who were professional jazz musicians. The blues rock guitarist, songwriter and singer says he has always been drawn to blues players such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, but also to more contemporary players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and BB King. He also performed Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) with Fallen Angel and the Bobby Starr Band.
Performing along with Robert James Starr are Heather Crosse on bass guitar, Lee Williams on drums, Mark Yacovone on keyboards, and Toni Green, Debra Barnes, and Carla Barnes on background vocals.
The following song took yours truly by pleasant surprise, as it’s not about a saint, but a sinner.
Track 04: “Gone and Forgotten” – We all hope to be remembered fondly after we die, but the subject of this down-and-dirty ballad surely won’t. “Well, he’s gone and forgotten, lonely and rotten, sucking back martinis and he’s wasting away. Yeah, he’s gone and forgotten, lonely and rotten, and that’s what he’ll be ‘til his dying day.” Traditional blues guitar follows, a blistering solo that shows just how rough this man’s path has become. Dig those background vocals, too.
Robert James Starr’s new self-titled album lays his soul bare, and his ambitions as well!