Dana Robbins – Dana Robbins | Album Review

danarobbinscd Dana Robbins – Dana Robbins

 Self-Release – 2014


 11 tracks; 44 minutes

 Dana Robbins is a saxophonist who has played with many artists, including Aretha Franklin and Barry Manilow. Now based in Nashville she is currently playing with the Delbert McClinton and Andy T/Nick Nixon bands. This CD was produced by current maestro of the studios Tom Hambridge who assembled some great players to accompany Dana: guitars are handled by Rob McNelly and Bob Britt, Kevin McKendree and Tim McDonald play keys, Mike Joyce and David Santos play bass, Lynn Williams and Tom himself play drums. Several tunes are instrumentals but when vocals are required Delbert and Jimmy Hall take two songs each and Dana also sings one herself. Etta Britt and Vickie Carrico add some background vocals and Quentin Ware adds trumpet on two tracks.

The CD opens with “Say It Again” written by Dana and Bruce Katz who has been playing keys with Delbert’s band in recent times. Bruce’s B3 part is taken by Kevin McKendree and the tune makes a great pairing with the King Curtis’ classic “Soul Twist” which follows. Delbert then steps up to the microphone to deliver one of those lovelorn ballads that he does so well. “Hardest Part” is a co-write with Tom Hambridge and Jimmy Hall and also features an excellent solo from Dana set against a lovely horn arrangement by trumpeter Quentin Ware. A short sax interlude precedes the instrumental “Make It A Double” on which co-writer Tim McDonald’s fleet fingers on piano are a feature of a tune that recalls those cool swinging jazz instrumentals in 60’s movies.

Jimmy Hall sings the rocking “Party On The Ocean”, a song written by Dana, Bob and Etta Britt in tribute to Delbert’s Sandy Beach Cruises which name-checks several regulars cruisers in a full band production (another great horn chart by Quentin). A second co-write with Bruce Katz, “Swingin’ Alley”, does what the title suggests as Dana leads the band on a swinging instrumental with organ and piano both to the fore. “Pullin’ The Strings” is Delbert’s second vocal, a song written by him, Bob Britt and Mike Joyce in something of a Tom Waits, late night, smoky bar vein, a feeling enhanced by Dana’s breathy sax and Kevin’s jazzy piano. Tom Hambridge wrote “Bless Your Heart” with frequent collaborator Richard Fleming and it provides a soulful vehicle for Jimmy Hall whose voice on this one is outstanding; Dana finds a solo of her own to match the emotion in Jimmy’s voice.

The CD closes with two contrasting pieces. First we get an instrumental romp through Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” which offers a suitable challenge to the players with its super-fast riff (originally created, of course, by one Jimi Hendrix). Perhaps inspired by having two excellent male vocalists on her album, Dana sings the lead on closer “Right As Rain” and acquits herself very well, supported by the backing vocals of Etta Britt and co-writer Vickie Carrico. This is the longest track here, clocking in at over six minutes, a slow ballad that explores how a strong relationship will endure: “When it comes to this loving game, we’re right as rain”. Everyone plays superbly, Bob Britt’s guitar, Kevin on piano and Tim on B3 for this one, both drummers playing and Dana’s sax rising above the ensemble to provide a rousing finale to the album.

If you like saxophone playing with a mixture of instrumentals and strong songs this is an album that you should definitely seek out. It comes thoroughly recommended and may well receive more accolades as the awards season approaches.

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