Jimmy Robinson
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Jimmy Robinson

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
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"Guitar Virtuoso Jimmy Robinson at Ogden Museum"

Glide Magazine's Best of 2008 Music Review said that "someone has got to make this guy famous." Why it hasn't happened yet, with rave reviews from the iconic OffBeat Magazine to Gambit to the New Orleans' Times Picayune is beyond me. I'll bet anyone a hundred bucks I don't have it's gonna happen when one of the dying breed of "mainstream" reviewers gets his/her hands on a copy of Robinson's solo debut, "Vibrating Strings." But no need to wait for that.
"Vibrating Strings" is a solo acoustic tour de force for electric guitar virtuoso Robinson, who established his solid reputation with Woodenhead and Twangorama. Woodenhead formed back in 1975 when Robinson and Danny Cassin were students at Loyola University, pursuing degrees in classical music. Rock and classical jazz caught their attention, and the boys list The Byrds, Hendrix, Cream and the Mahavishnu Orchestra as early influences.
"Vibrating Strings" is out on the Twangorama label and hosts a few more New Orleans' legends. The Twangorama Band, for those who don't know, features New Orleans' legends Cranston Clements, Robinson, and Phil deGruy.
Theresa Andersson's soaring violin, pop icon Susan Cowsill's stellar vocals, and the Bonerama Horns provide the kind of solid backup and finesse on "Vibrating Strings" that one can expect to find in New Orleans-- and absolutely no other city on the planet.
17 songs are expertly packaged on this fine compilation of all original material, except for covers of Hendrix's "Wind Cries Mary" and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." The fact that Robinson soulfully pulls off acoustic versions is testimony to his talent, emotion and just plain old excellent musicianship. Robinson is nothing short of brilliant on this CD. It as if some old master or Hendrix himself morphs into Robinson as he plays.
Reviewers have been speculating whether the album's darker moments, such as 'Pain" and "Drinking Buddies" are Katrina related. Anyone who knows New Orleans and has experienced the music scene there post-Katrina would not even bother to ask that question. Katrina permeates the entire arts scene there, and to speculate is not to understand the devotion artists have to their beautiful Crescent City. There is no one who has not experienced a personal loss as a result of the storm. These musicians are warriors and soldier on in spite of it all.
This CD is great, but better yet, if you are in New Orleans go see Robinson live. He is a treasured fixture on the local music scene.
Thursday, July 24, Robinson will headline the Ogden Museum of Southern Art's Ogden After Hours from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm in the Lobby Atrium. The setting is acoustically dynamic and should provide the perfect showcase for Robinson's guitar.
Expect a packed house of 250 patrons, so make plans to arrive early and check out what The Ogden has to offer--and it has a lot to offer. In the uncertain days following the catastrophe named Katrina, the Ogden was one of the very few public institutions that remained open and fighting for the uncertain future of New Orleans. Musicians have always been partners for and with the Ogden, and Robinson's appearance there is a fitting tribute to the tenacity of all who remained. - Huffington Post


"Guitarist Jimmy Robinson flies solo on new CD"

Guitarist Jimmy Robinson flies solo on new CD



Throughout his long career with rock-fusion band Woodenhead and guitar collective Twangorama, the electric guitar has served as Jimmy Robinson's main ax.
But during a monthlong Hurricane Katrina evacuation to Memphis, Tenn., he rediscovered the acoustic guitar, the instrument at the heart of his classical music studies at Loyola University. As an unknown entity in Memphis, it was easier to find solo acoustic gigs than a band in need of another electric guitarist.
"I realized that's a format I really love, " Robinson said. "You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. You can rehearse as much as you want, then get in a car and go play a gig. You make the musical decisions, and you take the lumps."
That period of rediscovery motivated Robinson to complete his first-ever acoustic solo album, "Vibrating Strings." He'll showcase much of it on Friday, July 25 at Carrollton Station and the afternoon of July 26 at the Louisiana Music Factory. For the Carrollton Station show, he'll mix and match onstage with fellow Twangorama guitarists Cranston Clements and Phil DeGruy, percussionist Michael Skinkus, cellist Mark Paradis of Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, and Beth Patterson on bouzouki.
On "Vibrating Strings, " Robinson's playing is consistently rich, lyrical and fluent. A Spanish-style detour called "Pepi" and "Brian O'Neal, " an elegy for the late Bonerama trombonist, are especially sumptuous. Another highlight is his acoustic reimagining of Led Zeppelin's ageless "Kashmir, " a song he has rendered with "psychobilly" combo Little Queenie & Mixed Nuts, Woodenhead and Twangorama, among others.
"I realized I could probably play 'Kashmir' alone, " he said. "No matter the format, people go crazy for it. That song can go from one guitar to a giant orchestra and it always sounds great. You could bang it out with spoons and pennywhistles and people would still love it."
Robinson is not always alone on "Vibrating Strings." Theresa Andersson's voice or violin appear on three songs. Susan Cowsill sings on "I Can't Believe It." Bonerama helps reinvent Jimi Hendrix's "Wind Cries Mary."
The most surprising guest is Robinson's own voice. In the early years of Woodenhead, he sang following the departure of the band's vocalist, Angelle Trosclair. But for two decades, Woodenhead has focused almost exclusively on instrumental music. So, too, Twangorama.
On almost half the songs on "Vibrating Strings, " Robinson casts himself as a singer-songwriter with a breathy voice not unlike that of Austin guitar hero Eric Johnson. He also admires the singing of Richard Thompson and the phrasing and inflection of Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny. His pleasant tone belies the lyrics, which catalog a friend's fatal alcoholism, among other grim subjects.
"The stories are real stories about people I knew; they are the truth, " Robinson said. "But I need to balance that out a little bit. I have a few tunes about my wife that are upbeat."
His unconventional guitar technique -- he wears a thumb-style pick on the index finger of his right hand -- is the product of necessity. Years ago, he developed a condition called carpal dystonia in the middle finger of his right hand. It causes the tendons to contract involuntarily, especially when he plays guitar or piano. Wearing a pick enables him to bypass the condition.
"It's not even in the equation any more. I think it has allowed me to progress beyond where I was when this started."
Robinson continues to perform with Twangorama and, less frequently, Woodenhead. He also contributes to Cowsill's monthly "Covered in Vinyl" renditions of classic albums at Carrollton Station. And, increasingly, he performs solo.
"It's a pure, wonderful guitar sound. From an expression point of view, it enables you to pretty much do whatever you want. I like the idea of being able to do complete pieces alone. There's something real satisfying about it."
And there are certain practical advantages to flying solo.
"I don't have to wait for Cranston and Phil's jokes to go by, " Robinson said, laughing. "It's an efficient way to work." - New Orleans Times Picayune


"TalkBack with Jimmy Robinson"





TalkBack with Jimmy Robinson
By Alex Rawls


Guitarist Jimmy Robinson remembers hitchhiking barefooted to the French Quarter from the Lakefront to play guitar when he was 16. He has played guitar in New Orleans all his life, and for years, he has been known as the guitarist with the city’s closest equivalent to a prog rock group, Woodenhead. He has also been the go-to guitarist for hire, someone with the chops to play almost anything.
 
Since the late 1990s, his main gig has been Twangorama, the guitar lover’s dream with Robinson, Cranston Clements and Phil DeGruy, backed by the Woodenhead rhythm section of Paul Clement and Mark Whitaker. Twangorama put out a self-titled album last year, and this month Robinson follows suit with his solo debut, Vibrating Strings. The acoustic album alternates between instrumental material—including a solo guitar cover of Led Zep’s “Kashmir” and a tribute to the late Bonerama member “Brian O’Neal”—and vocal material, sung by Robinson. It’s an album of goodbyes as he deals with loss, but dark lyrics are often balanced by the musicality of his playing. His technique is impeccable, but he never lets it do his thinking for him.
 
Between Twangorama, your new solo album and playing in Susan Cowsill’s band, you’ve been busy.
Suddenly, I’ve been getting a bunch of calls which is really nice. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time. Susan called me for the Jimi Hendrix gig [when she played Are You Experienced? for her “Covered in Vinyl” series] and it stuck, so that’s kind of nice.
 
How long have you been playing solo sets at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse?
I started that a couple of years ago since I started working on this solo thing in earnest.
 
When I went to college, my major was classical guitar so I’ve been dabbling with that forever. But the thing with my hand—I had to put classical down because of my fingers I have carpal dystonia. Basically, it’s a condition that is generated in your nervous system that makes certain tendons, usually affiliated with your occupation, contract when you don’t want them to. My problem is with my middle finger. It started about 25 years ago, and I kept on adapting around it. Then it got to the point that I couldn’t hold a pick, so I kept inventing little things, and I finally hit around this one pick which works out so perfectly, and I’m playing better now that I think I ever had.
 
The first time it happened had to scare you.
I was doing my graduate work at Loyola and this weird thing kept happening. I kept thinking I’m not practicing enough and something’s wrong.
 
I think I’m playing better than I ever have now, but I had to really dramatically change my technique. If I try to play in a conventional way, or if I try to play piano—sometimes when I go to shake a hand, I expect it to curl up. It’s not life-threatening or painful or anything. It’s just when I go to perform specific tasks, something in my brain is sending commands that it’s not supposed to.
 
Tell me about playing with Susan Cowsill’s “Covered in Vinyl” nights.
She really can make something, just about anything, her own. She didn’t know that Hendrix album at all. Russ [Broussard, her drummer] and I grew up with it, but she never really listened to it. She didn’t do the Hendrix version; she did her own version.
 
That Springsteen gig [Born to Run] was absolutely awesome. There was no room in the place; it’s a little mystifying to me that there’s such a cult following that album, but people were holding up their cigarette lighters and singing every word.
 
How long does it take you to pick up the guitar parts for one of those shows?
It’s getting quicker, but it depends on the record. That Springsteen record has a lot of stuff wrapped up in one after the other, and that took a little bit, but it’s a real good exercise. It’s been real good for my thought process and chops.
To be honest, I like doing her stuff more than anything else in that gig. Just the freedom to be able improvise and add stuff. I grew up playing in rock bands playing Stones and Beatles.
 
Is it hard to restrain yourself?
Yeah. Sometimes I’ll tend to do too much. There’s a lot of space to add interesting things. 
Every time she does her songs, she changes them on the fly. We did a couple of tunes at Jazz Fest this year that we had talked through and never actually played. I was standing there behind her calling out the chords that I thought she had taught us the day before.
 
How has playing with Susan affected your solo work?
I have the tendency to start racing and I’m trying to work on that. Russ is helping me with that a lot because he’s really rock solid, and he spend a lot of time working on that same thing. When you’re playing by yourself, you can do whatever you want. When I play with just the two of us, I realize wow, I’m really behind the beat, or way ahead of the beat.
 
What made you decide to do a solo alb - Offbeat Magazine


"Jimmy Robinson solo debut"


Some acoustic guitar players caress the strings; others coax and play with them. Jimmy Robinson on "Vibrating Strings" attacks them with force and passion. The opening cut, "Big Blue" pulls you quickly into the vortex of this musical maelstrom with tapping and slapping and slides and pulsating strumming. A mixture of instrumentals and vocals played on both six and 12-string guitar, "Vibrating Strings" grabs you as a listener and forces you to stop and listen, because there's a lot going on in this music. "Brian O'Neal" deftly combines a wistful melody with powerful right-hand work of strumming or flatpicking. Likewise, on "I Can't Believe It," we begin on a rollicking strumming pattern with verses interspersed, and then a slapping riff crescendos into the bridge. This would be a good bar song to get the crowd going. Robinson does a credible cover of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" using jazz chords and horns, an arrangement I have not heard before, but it works, reflecting the inherent melancholy of the song. "Murderous Intent" varies between a Celtic-tinged jig and a quick-paced ballad. On "Lost Time" we hear echoes -- lyrically, stylistically, and vocally -- of a younger Bruce Cockburn. On the title cut, "Vibrating Strings," the cynicism of the lyrics is fed by almost frenetic strumming, creating a tension that reinforces the message of the song. "E Phrygian" is one of the most interesting tunes of the CD. Perhaps because of the mode it's named for, it draws images from Spanish music, early Alex DeGrassi, and at times is played in dizzying tempo. This may be the guitar lover's cut from the recording. The 17-song CD ends with a remarkable version of Led Zepplin's "Kashmir" played with all the power the original held, but this time merely on solo 12-string guitar. No doubt about it, Jimmy Robinson has all six or twelve strings vibrating on every cut of this collection of songs, making some pretty good music. - Minor 7th


"Guitar virtuoso Jimmy Robinson at Ogden Museum"


Jimmy Robinson is best known as the frontman for the bands Woodenhead and Twangorama, and as a frequent collaborator with Susan Cowsill on her Covered in Vinyl show series. His debut solo CD, Vibrating Strings is a departure of sorts, Robinson showcases his vocal talents in this intriguing collection that alternates between singer/songwriter and acoustic guitar virtuoso instrumental. With reflections on past relationships, Hurricane Katrina, and departed friends, the artist gives the listener the sense that this CD was the result of a swelling reservoir of emotional material inevitably spilling onto disc. The result of that cathartic process is a revealing look at Robinson’s introspective journey. There are few as adept at developing interesting acoustic chordal variations, and this CD is a comprehensive demonstration of those talents. Robinson provides frequent reminders that he can rock, and versions of Jimi Hendrix (“The Wind Cries Mary”) and Led Zeppelin (“Kashmir”) cover songs round out the collection nicely. Theresa Andersson, the Bonerama horns, and Cowsill make notable contributions to the recording. –Craig Cortello

- Whereyat Magazine, July, 2008, by craig Cortello


Discography

Solo cd "Vibrating Strings"
with TWANGORAMA "Twangorama"
with WOODENHEAD "Woodenhead", "Woodenhead Live", "Heartprints", "The Big Picture", "Music From The Big Green Warehouse" and "Perseverance"

Photos

Bio

Jimmy cut his teeth as a member of the psychedelic rock band "Ejaculation" in the late 60’s, playing weekly free concerts in New Orleans Audubon Park for the "pre-jam band" hippie community. He went on to study classical guitar and composition at Loyola Music School and The Eastman School Of Music and formed the progrock/fusion band Woodenhead in 1975. The group toured extensively and recorded a number of projects, including the most recent “Perseverance” for New Jersey label Free Electric Sound The group has appeared in concert with Bela Fleck And The Flecktones, John Mclaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Dixie Dregs,The Steve Morse Band, Allen Holdsworth, Billy Cobham, Tuck and Patty, Jeff Beck, Spyro Gyra, Hugh Masekela, The Neville brothers, The Radiators and others. The has band played the New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival over 25 times and has appeared at the National Theater in Guatemala city and the Public Theater in New York, and made a 2006 appearance at the Progday Festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina..
Jimmy is also a member of the New Orleans guitar all star group Twangorama with guitarists
Phil DeGruy and Cranston Clements. The band released it’s first cd to coincide with their 2007 N.O. Jazzfest appearance. They hosted a concert series “Seriously Twisted Guitar” with a different weekly guest artist, including Theresa Andersson, Anders Osborne, Papa John Gros, June Yamagishi, Astral Project, The Radiators’ Camille Baudoin and Dave Malone, Bonerama and others. The group has performed at the INGUITAR Festival in Switzerland, The Can Cun Jazz Festival, The Pan Am Fest in Guatemala City and Festival Internationale in Lafayette, La. They play regularly in New Orleans.
Jimmy also performs with Susan Cowsill and has toured the U.S. and Europe with Dr Hook, Guitar Slim Jr, Tribe Nunzio and The BGoes.