Robin Banks – Modern Classic | Album Review

robinbankscdRobin Banks – Modern Classic

Self-Release 2014

12 tracks; 48 minutes

Robin Banks is a vocalist and songwriter who has lived in Texas and Jamaica but is now back in her native Canada though she still returns frequently to Jamaica where she is a popular performer.  If you had to name a dream team for a studio band you could well be thinking of the following ensemble: Duke Robillard on guitar and production, Bruce Bears on keys, Brad Hallett on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums, Doug James on baritone sax, Mark Earley on tenor sax and Doug Woolverton on trumpet – i.e. Duke’s current touring band + Roomful Of Blues horns on half the tracks!  This was the band assembled in Rhode Island to back Robin on twelve originals and they play brilliantly throughout.

The CD opens with “A Man Is Just A Man”, the horns doing a superb job, especially Doug Woolverton whose trumpet is featured.  Duke’s guitar leads the tune which has a touch of Caribbean lilt as Robin advises the ladies not to get too attached: “A man is just a man, much like a bus another one will be right along”. The horns sit out “Superhero”, a gentle tune that might fit into the songbook of Lionel Ritchie, Duke’s guitar and Bruce’s keys providing shimmering accompaniment to Robin’s relaxed vocal.

A jazzy “I Really Dig You” has Bruce digging deep on piano and the horns giving warmth, including a fine tenor solo by Mark.  Doug James’ bari leads the way on a latin-flavoured “Crazy” on which trumpet and tenor get solos and the listener can’t help but tap along with the insistent rhythm.  The bluesiest track to date is “My Baby Loves Me” though there are equally jazz touches in Bruce’s piano, all the horns adding their individual touches to the music.  Lyrically Robin seems to have found a fan: “My baby loves me, not just my cooking.  He thinks I’m sexy looking, that blows my mind”.  Duke’s sinuous solo is the final touch of class on a fine tune.

“A Little Bit Of Heaven” is a classic ‘Great American Songbook’ style song.  You can imagine Dinah Washington having sung this one as Duke’s band excels without the horns who return strongly on the soulful “I’ll Meet You There” which has a touch of the great Memphis soul ballads, Bruce’s organ and the horns carrying the melody as Duke stabs out some licks from the Steve Cropper handbook and Mark delivers an excellent tenor solo. It’s the longest cut on the album and you really don’t want it to end though the later “Bite Your Tongue” is another Memphis R n’ B piece with a dash more funk.  The horns are absent on the intervening “Tonight” which returns to a jazzier style and Robin’s voice works perfectly on a small band piece in which the whole band takes short solos.

The last three cuts cover a good range of styles using just the core band without the horns.  “You Boogie Too Fast For Me” does what the title suggests, Robin doing a great job on the vocals as Bruce is the featured player on a superb piece of swing.  Try as hard as you may, your feet will not stay still through this one!  “A Place In The City” is a country ballad with Duke’s guitar in suitably twangy mode and Bruce’s piano echoing “The Green Green Grass Of Home” as Robin sings of settling into a new apartment in the city.  The final track “Some Day Soon” is a short jazzy piece with Bruce again outstanding on piano.  Duke’s production skills are in evidence here as every nuance of the band’s playing can be heard clearly beneath Robin’s perfect vocal.

If you are looking for a hardcore blues album this is not for you but if you are a fan of the area where jazz meets blues (with a couple of detours into soul) this album is definitely worth checking out.  Fans of Duke Robillard will enjoy this one and the presence of the Roomful horns is an added bonus!

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