Terry Robb – Confessin’ My Dues
CD: 13 songs, 40:43 minutes
The world is full of acoustic guitar players. There are guitar players then we have a handful of musicians who stand apart. Terry Robb is definitely part of the latter. He may be the best acoustic player that a majority of the music listening audience has not heard. Music and entertainment publications have given Robb accolades for many years. He had collaborated with John Fahey, Maia Muldaur and Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, to name but a few. He has had tour adventures with Buddy Guy and Steve Miller, and shared the stage with B. B. King, Robin Trower (on earlier select night’s current tour), Albert Lee, Joe Cocker and the list goes on and on. Robb also spent some time earlier in his career playing in the bands of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and Canned Heat.
He is in the Cascade Blues Hall of Fame in his home state of Oregon (he was born in Canada). They annually award blues commendations in the customary areas. They call them the Muddy Awards. Robb was named that organizations “best acoustic guitar player” for nineteen consecutive years. The group honored him by renaming the distinction as the “Terry Robb” Acoustic Guitar Muddy Award.
His guitar prowess has him in demand as an acoustic/finger-picking workshop leader. Robb is no stranger to the studio or stage. Confessin’ My Dues is his 15th album to date and second on the Portland based NiaSounds label. Some earlier releases have been solo efforts while others have included musicians. Joining him on this album are jazz greats: Gary Hobbs on drums and Dave Captein on bass. The duo provides a great rhythm section for Robb’s guitar work. Adam Scarmstad plays rhythm guitar on “Keep Your Judgement”. Mr. Robb stated “Sonically, I wanted the album to be both intimate and powerful; I’m very excited to bring this group of musicians together for the first time”.
The cover of the work may give the impression on turn of the century (19th to 20th century that is). As soon as you hear the beginning of the opening track “Butch Holler Stomp” those thoughts change. The “toe tapper’ is a happy little tune that shows Mr. Robb’s finger-picking prowess right off the bat.
“Still on 101”, “How a Free Man Feels”, and “Darkest Road” all have that delta blues sound. “Darkest Road” grabbed me with its references to Mississippi, Highway 61, and the Crossroads. The lyrics do a good job of expressing the thoughts and you can almost feel a person coming up behind you during the night and offering what you want in exchange for something the stranger wants to control.
“It Might Get Sweaty” is a funky offering with pace changes scattered throughout the song. About halfway through the tune Mr. Robb sets off on a flying-finger riff that to a bumbling guitarist like me seems impossible for a man to accomplish.
The title track, “Confessin’ My Dues”, gives you an idea of almost everything a man will face in a lifetime. “Now Vestapal” is based on the way a parlor guitar was tuned in the early 1900’s. The finger picking style was best played in “Open D” tuning, which means a D chord is strummed with no strings fretted. That became Vestapal. The song here has a catchy tune with good tempo. It changes to slower finger-picking mode toward the middle of the song then builds back up to finish the song.
I will admit prior to listening to Confessin’ My Dues I knew little about Terry Robb. I have become an admirer of his guitar playing the way he can convey a feel with his fingers. The album has a little from every incarnation of the blues. The finger-picking is jaw dropping, the delta feel seems real and the musicianship is suburb.