Wayne Robbins & the Hellsayers
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Wayne Robbins & the Hellsayers

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The best kept secret in music


"Stomp & Stammer Magazine-Atl. (9 out of 10)"

It happens at exactly two minutes and twenty-three seconds into Jesus, the third song on the debut platter from Ashevilles Wayne Robbins & the Hellsayers. Up to that point youve been gently, pleasurably lulled by a dreamy slice of cosmic cowboy folk-rock (Time Is A Bird In Your Eyes, which recalls both My Morning Jacket and The Byrds Notorious Byrd Brothers and is sun kissed by a haunting electric lap steel motif) and a Wilco-meets-Neil Young pop nugget (Sarahs Lament, part Summerteeth and part After the Goldrush, Robbins keening vocals ultimately tipping the scales more in the direction of the latter). And for the first half of Jesus the band maintains this low key, melodic vibe, the only hint of disquiet Robbins crossroads-reaching, self-probing lyrics: Jesus, I dont want to be free anymore/ each day I find/ that the ground/ is pulling me down. The earth splits wide open-or is it the Rapture, granting Robbins his wish? in a massive spasm of feedback, white noise and fret board frissons: Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine hop the expressway to yr skull. Its a beautiful violence, that Young & Crazy Horse might perversely employ, or the kind of derailment Howe Gelb sometimes delights in when his band Giant Sand is at full boil. Elsewhere youll encounter a wealth of diverse moments: Queen Annes Revenge, with baroque banjo, is twang-noir, Forgiveness, a hypnotic bit of Clean/Yo La Tengoish drone pop; and Ediths Dream, a bluesy, modal, psychedelic waltz straight out of Quicksilver Messenger Service territory (cue more feedback). Throughout the Hellsayers remain focused, stitching together myriad strands of Americana and Amerindie while demonstrating a healthy disregard for pop platitudes. Featuring songwriter Robbins passionate, keening upper register (add MMJs Jim James to the prior Young comparison), the twin guitar front line of Jonas Cole and Jeff Whitworth (the latters also the lap steel wielder) and the sturdy rhythm section of Brian Landrum (drums) and Joe Burkett (bass), the Hellsayers are one of the most gifted outfits to emerge from the Western North Carolina mountains since the Blue Rags (on SubPop) in the mid/late 90s. For further proof checkout the Hellsayers website (www.goodluckcricket.com). In addition to the usual band info and MP3 album samples theres a small archive of Dylan covers listed as The Hellsayers celebrate Dylans Basement Tapes. Included are outstanding live versions of You Aint Goin Nowhere, Tiny Montgomery and traditional Bonnie Ship the Diamond plus a home demo of Down In the Flood. Theres definitely more to this merry band of mountaineers than meets the eye or ear. -Fred Mills Stomp & Stammer - Stomp & Stammer

"Review of "The Lonesome Sea""

Review from The Music Monitor

by Rick Cornell
The Music Monitor, Feb. 2005

Asheville by way of Wilmington songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Wayne Robbins, by day an English professor at Western Carolina University, apparently had a lot of time to let his mind wander on his migration from the beach to the mountains. The Lonesome Sea, the album he's made with his band the Hellsayers, sports lyrics that frequently sound like the results of a creative writing exercise conducted in the middle of a fever dream, and the whole enterprise is one of the most gradually engrossing, genre-blurring records to come out of North Carolina in a while. It's tempting to reach for some usual-suspect comparisons (you know, here a "subdued and rustic Flaming Lips" and there a now ubiquitous "Wilco-esque") or apply a customized tag ("psych-folk sea chanteys"), but it's probably best to just award the four E's: eclectic, earnest, enigmatic and eccentric. Throughout, layers of guitars, both acoustic and electric guitar, lap steel, keyboards, drums, and the random autoharp blend, resulting in a high-altitude Lambchop. (Damn, another comparison snuck in.) And when the band crashes in at the 2:30-minute mark of "Jesus," it's like your high-strung cat interrupting an afternoon nap with a giddy pounce. Compared to the lulling build-up, it's the sound of all hell breaking loose, and it's just one of many moments that will keep you returning to The Lonesome Sea.

Rick Cornell

- The Music Monitor

"Americana Uk Review (9 out of 10)"

Wayne Robbins and the Hellsayers “The Lonesome Sea”

A fantastic trawl through indie Americana’s back catalogue will take you to places you didn’t even know existed. You know how My Morning Jacket would sound if they stopped fannying around sounding like they were inside a biscuit tin, if they cut the reverb and noodling and just cranked out the songs, or if Clem Snide hadn’t descended into sentiment, or if you had seen Neil Young and Sonic Youth on their tour together and through some alchemical process had managed to distil their sounds to the essence and recombine them into something magical - imagine no longer: it’s all here in this magnificent debut record. A rich brew made from the cream of American indie music including those above plus, the National, Yo La Tengo, Galaxie 500, Wilco and add in the Byrds, and you’re bound to get something potent. From the first backwards chords of ‘Time is a Bird in your Eyes’ you sit up and take notice - the melody is simple, the baton passed from guitar to guitjo (hybrid guitar banjo combination) to lap steel, the treated guitar circling like hungry crows around road kill. ‘Sarah’s Lament’ boasts twinkles of percussion and a chorus that will make your teeth ache with its sweetness. The point where I just gave up and immersed myself in the music, all critical faculties abandoned plunging head first into a pool of pleasure, was on ‘Jesus’ which starts as strummed narcotic folk and then just explodes into a maelstrom of controlled noise and melody; perhaps if you imagine Sonic Youth hijacking the Great Lake Swimmers you might get somewhere close. From here on in you are seduced; you know that the processed neo-psychedelic sounds of ‘Maria Drops Her Music Box into the Sea’ are just a precursor to a Sargasso Sea of swaying melody, kelp fronds of guitar slapping warmly and gently against the shore of an unspoilt island of love that is ‘Turtleshell Lullaby’. The sea features in some way or another on all of the tracks here whether it is in the brittle charm of ‘The Three Sisters’ or the adrift warm psychedelia of ‘Edith’s Dream’ or the storms of guitars filling the billowing sails of ‘Sunset Ode’. Superbly accomplished, you wonder how it can come to you so perfectly formed and so unheralded.

Date review added: Sunday, January 16, 2005
Reviewer: David Cowling
Reviewers Rating: 9 out of 10

- Americana UK

"Rapid River Review"

Review of The Lonesome Sea, by James Cassara.
Published in Rapid River Magazine, June 2004 (volume 7, number 10).

There is a deliciously odd moment roughly halfway through "Jesus," the third track on Wayne Robbins and The Hellsayers four star effort The Lonesome Sea, when the band, after a tentative and reflective repose, erupt with a cacophonous explosion of fuzz laden guitar, bass, and drum that threatens to shift the proceedings into a decidedly different and ultimately darker course. It's a bold move, reminiscent and worthy of Wilco, that in many ways best exemplifies the audacity and sonic confidence this quintet exudes.

Fronted by singer/guitarist Robbins, the band, whose collective stringed approach immediately brings to mind Crazy Horse era Neil Young, is fueled by the twin guitars of Jeff Whitworth and Jonas Cole, along with the rhythm section of Joe Burkett (bass) and Brian Landrum on drums. Having now been together for a couple of years the band has grown beyond its formative stages and is visibly moving into new and more prominent terrain. A cluster of local gigs, including a high profile performance opening for My Morning Jacket (a track of which is included herein) have no doubt sharpened the band's skills while coalescing the musical elements that help make the mix that are The Hellsayers. The Lonesome Sea is an amazingly complex collection of sounds that resonates not one bit like the locally brewed low cost effort it almost certainly is. Sure, it's at times a bit too obvious, but half the fun is in spotting the subtle musical references while the other half is in hearing what marvelous things this band can do in translating those influences into something new and infinitely fascinating.

- Rapid River Magazine

"Asheville Disclaimer Review"

The Lonesome Sea (self-released)

by Mathew B. Peterson
Asheville Disclaimer, June 2004

Having not yet seen the Hellsayers live, as have a growing number of Ashevillians, I see now that my expectations were downright laughable. The fact that everyone who recommended them to me as a must-see live act did so in the same breath with local bluegrass stompers and alt-twangers led me to believe they were a honky-tonk band of booze-swillin' shitkickers with a rockabilly mean streak. I mean, the name does evoke the notion of being two shocks shy of the electric chair and fresh out of give-a-fucks, right?

After receiving an advance copy of The Lonesome Sea from bearded, guitar playing man-bear Jeff Whitworth, I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. Nothing about it is "country" per se, with the possible exception of Whitworth's pedal steel playing, an instrument now so embraced by rock instrumentalists that any external genre reference has dissolved. It's just great, memorable rock and roll.

I'm positive I'm not the first to compare Wayne Robbins and his peeps to Neil Young and Crazy Horse. But that reference has more to do with vocal similarity than anything else, and Robbins voice conjures Built to Spill's Doug Martsch or Luna's Dean Wareham or even Elf Power's Andrew Reiger just as readily. But The Lonesome Sea finds him confident and expressive, exuding the sense of purpose in a songwriter who has, quite literally, found his OWN voice.

Anchored by Robbins' uniquely pining, ethereal warble and fantastical fable-telling lyrics, the Hellsayers strum lushly and melodically, letting Robbins' tales stretch out as if told slowly over a long drive through the desert. Banjo, lap steel, piano, drums and guitars of all types are generously present, crafting a sound not too unlike a pre-Soft Bulletin Flaming Lips.

Occasionally, the album drags, as on "Queen Anne's Revenge," a nautical fable that clocks in at 7:21, about twice its desirable length. Epic songs are a noble pursuit, but it takes a lot to justify seven minutes, no matter what the intent. An occasional overuse of instrumentation, such as the xylophone/bells on "Sarah's Lament" and pedal steel overkill on "Forgiveness," is the only other detectable flaw on this otherwise remarkable debut.

Lyrically, the sea, the moon and lots of women called by name inhabit Robbins' stories, which, even if the listener can't always discern the morals of, are brought to thrilling climax by the band's mastery of dynamic timing. The opening track, "Time is a Bird in Your Eyes," demonstrates this perfectly as the Hellsayers go from a languorous, minor-chord dirge, yielding to a banjo break, and then to an explosive, rapturous bridge that showcases the band at their electric best. "Jesus" ascends accordingly by its slow build into a blissful cacophony that evokes the effects-laden space-rock of Spiritualized.

The Lonesome Sea engraves the Hellsayers' name starkly on the face of NC rock. Now arguably one of the best bands in North Carolina, I doubt they'll remain a strictly local act for long.
- Asheville Disclaimer

"Smoky Mountain News Review (4 out of 5)"

Wayne Robbins and the Hellsayers
Album: Lonesome Sea
Lable: Good Luck Cricket Records
4 out of 5

I now bid farewell to my nemeses — Genre, Label, Category, and the diabolical Pigeonhole.

I’ve decided this irksome quartet will no longer commandeer my tongue with phrases like “post-techno grunge with a dash of dada.”

I’ve moved on to music that doesn’t enable my branding. Classifications are futile, and sounds congregate from every outlet, creating a whole that’s indefinable. It’s a universe happily populated by Wayne Robbins and the Hellsayers, a quintet whose debut album, The Lonesome Sea made me rethink my labeling ethics.

My surface reaction would be to call Wayne and the Hellsayers, “a neo form of rock-n-roll.” I could then follow it up with a lethargic summation, declaring, “It’s Americana straitjacketed in a mental ward”.

But it’s so much more. At times, Wayne’s voice and lyrics (all written by Robbins) remind me of a traveling minstrel in lands where dragons horde all the good acreage. His elevated voice weaves tales with teardrops in his throat. His stories encompass dreams, beheadings, shipwrecks, mowing the yard, and even Jesus.

Not surprising for a singer who is an English professor at Western Carolina University by day.

Still, interpretations of the tunes are elusive. Stanzas like “13 mice were trapped in a silver bucket/7 snakes were crossing a steaming highway” (from “Sarah’s Lament”) could only be deciphered if I interrogated Wayne himself.

Band member Jonas Cole (electric guitar, nylon string guitar) allowed for my meek interrogations and told me that the album borders on being a concept. Not surprising considering that most of the songs deal with water, swimming, and even Blackbeard’s famous ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The concept idea bears more weight considering that Wayne’s father’s favorite hobby is sailing.

Of course, Robbins’ words would not be effective without a landscape, which is mightily maintained by the Hellsayers. Robbins’ words offer spontaneous combustions, and it’s up to the rest of the band members to keep the singer at least within the stratosphere.

Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Whitworth provides eerie resonance on the lap steel, while his guidjo (an incestual union between the banjo and guitar) gives an almost Civil war traditional feel to “Queen Anne’s Revenge.” Percussionist Bryan Landrum puts the xylophone to work for the infectious “Sarah’s Lament”, and Cole and Joe Burkett (electric and acoustic bass) are adept musicians who are up to anything Robbins lobs at them.

Vicky Burick guest vocals on the gorgeous, “Jesus” and old member Tyler Ramsey (Drug Money) plays keys on the dreamy, “Sunset Ode”. Mastering of the album was done by Brent Lambert, whose lofty credentials (among many) include the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Eyes Adrift, a trio consisting of old members of Nirvana, the Meat Puppets, and Sublime.

There, I did it. No labeling of any sort. Wayne Robbins and the Hellsayers deserve this sort of vagueness, because their kind isn’t snug in a box.

However, to feed my labeling addiction, I’ll close with some shallow remarks on the album: Incredible debut. Folk music with balls. Eccentric Electric. Must buy.

Hunter Pope - Smoky Mountain News

"Mountain X-Press feature article"

Jun 25, 2003 / vol 9 iss 46
Hot little secret
Asheville's Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers are truly, oddly all that
by Frank Rabey

Reason to Love Asheville No. 273:

It's a drizzly, gray, mid-March day, the damp cold seeming to seep into the skin. And on the patio beneath The Laughing Seed awning, the magic taking place goes largely unnoticed by passersby navigating puddly Wall Street, their wet heads tucked against the weather.

Singer/songwriter Wayne Robbins is leading drummer Brian Landrum and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Whitworth – two-thirds of the original incarnation of Robbins' backing band The Hellsayers – through a few originals.

Robbins' uncannily enigmatic songs – built atop haunting, noire-like instrumentation and steeped in sundry traditions from folk to rock 'n' roll, old-time to sea shanty – seem to linger in the dewy air, bittersweet and lonesome like the day.

"Jesus," Robbins sings in his high quiver of a voice, steam wisping from his lips, "I don't want to be free anymore."

This unamplified public band practice (minus keyboardist/bass player Tyler Ramsey) occasionally snags some scurrying pedestrian suddenly aware that something far cooler than just the weather is happening.

"The swordfish is knocking at my door," Robbins sings, his shaggy head characteristically tilted, obscuring his face. "He wants my shell collection for sure."

"Only in Asheville," comments one transfixed pedestrian.

For right now, yes. The Hellsayers are this town's hot little secret. And if you're not yet in on it, then it's time you sold some piece of your soul to these talented local devils.

"This man should be a star."

That unqualified praise, direct from my beery notes about The Hellysayers' acoustic show at Area 45 on March 26, hails from immediately after Robbins' surreal Dylan-meets-Leonard Cohen swordfish saga, "Edith's Dream."

But future gigs and fewer drinks haven't tempered that well-oiled contention. The Hellsayers create music of startling depth and mood, sonic paintings caked with sea salt and stray scraps of sky atop bold strokes of God and death and yearning. Not bad for a rock 'n' roll band.

Robbins' songs work best when they give his mercurial singing – and Whitworth's rich lap-steel and Dobro playing – ample room to move.

Whitworth, possibly the least-known musician of the bunch, is the original Hellsayers' true ringer.

Although stellar sidemen Landrum (also the leader of fine alt-country group Black Eyed Dog) and Ramsey (who formerly fronted his own trio, and has since played with a who's who of local musicians) bring the expected finesse and flourish to their parts, it's the burly, wooly-bearded Whitworth who's most responsible for the band's complex tone. His lap steel, sometimes augmented with an e-bow, cradles and accentuates the palpable longing in Robbins' heaven-seeking voice.

The group is currently in transition. Guitarist Jonas Cole recently joined, and Ramsey is bowing out indefinitely in a few weeks to tour with Fisher Meehan's beefed-up Drug Money. Auditions for a permanent Hellsayers bass player are about to begin.

Ambitious vs. pretentious
Robbins comes across as a songwriter in battle with his own literary tendencies.

He will stress, on the one hand, how he struggles to make every line in a song count. Credit that to years of poetry writing, and to the fact that, when he listens to music, it's usually to Dylan songs. Particularly Highway 61-era Bob.

And then Robbins will backpedal, thus:

During our recent interview in the Grey Eagle courtyard, with Landrum and Cole also present, the band's drummer asserted: "Most writers just use throwaway lines."

"Oh, I do [it], too," Robbins declares.

One man's trash, as they say. Consider this, from Robbins' patently gorgeous "America Is a Church":

"When I wait tables, I'm waiting for God.

When I pump gas, I do it for God,

That strange shadow when there is no sun

That comes into my room and tells me it's mine."

Not exactly "Oops! ... I Did It Again," is it?

Robbins will say, without ever being accused of such, that he doesn't worry about his songs sounding pretentious. And then he will say that he does.

"I try to make things sound interesting," he reveals at one point, "to throw you off a little bit so you don't immediately get what [a song] means – that it has a mysteriousness to it, but that it's not pretentious.

"A lot of times," he adds. "it is pretentious; but the goal is for it not to be."

Robbins' own ambitiousness dictates such artistic soul-searching; as a writer, he favors themes and images that frequently shake their metaphoric fists at literal understanding. But his writing is much more varied than his most inscrutable lyrics might first lead people to believe, Landrum posits. He can't be pigeonholed.

A new song, "Forgiveness," includes the drummer's current-favorite Robbins line, the blatantly direct "Love me with y - Mountain X-Press

"PinKushion Magazine review (translated from french)"

Chronique : Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers - The Lonesome Sea
Article posted by FF, May 26, 2005

Left in the United States at the beginning year, The Lonesome Sea will probably never be born in France. And it is strong damage in comparison with the nuggets which it contains, engraved in same folk-rock'n'roll-electric materials as those of Neil Young, Byrds and joined together Sonic Youth. If one can judge size of an artist to the number of vocations which it will have generated then, undoubtedly, Neil Young is an immense musician. This last resting now on its bay-trees, considerable more or less legitimate kids since encased the step to him, with the risk to see their heritage transformed into burden well too heavy to carry for them. Then let us dare here a small polemic: for a T.W. Walsh (didn't one still weary oneself of its splendid Blue Laws left in 2001) or Tony Dekker (Great Lake Swimmers) how much sufficient plagiarists, tedious epigones? It is a question less here of putting back at back the maid and the bad seed of musician or of pointing, of an accusing finger, qualities or defects of the ones and others, to regret the nostalgic imitation and lazybones of which proof some make, which makes most of the time null and void their artistic inclinations.

If it always does not escape from this frightening shelf, Wayne Robbins, accompanied by its excellent group The Hellsayers, understood nevertheless, like My Morning Jacket or of Wilco (formation of Jeff Tweedy remaining however, with many regards, definitely more original), that the best means of prolonging the?uvre venerated Masters consisted in going up on their shoulders in order to look at ahead. And as it is that those of Neil Young are rather quite constructed, it was allowed to be made convene two other references of choices which are like as many musical steps making more accessible sound ambitious intention: Byrds and Sonic Youth.

The opening of the album, "Time Is has Bird in Your Eyes", thus evokes The Notorious Byrd Brothers of the first, and certain skids bruitists at the end of the majority of the pieces recall as for them the sonic drifts of the seconds. All the talent of Robbins lies then in the ingestion and the digestion of these cumbersome influences, strewn here or there inside the pieces with a real know-how, and read again with the ell of more contemporary prospects. In spite of their obviousness, they thus succeed in being incorporated in a phagocytic style which in addition sees the primacy granted to the guitars and the sounds that they deliver.

Howling or (wrongfully) alleviated, they are the lungs of the album, its vital organs, the catalyst of mystical aspirations and simple but effective melodies. Here a music which pitches, balances, whirls to the sandstones of riffs inspired which propel it well beyond awaited banks (and finally heard). Not less than three guitarists (more one beater and a basist) make this crew of licensed fighters which despises of all turbulences with an impressing plume and a creditable attention with sound textures. That they weave a deaf environment or that they vociferate, these guitars release from space, create duration (three titles exceed the six minutes briskly), draw from all edges of the pieces which they agreeably make derive towards one elsewhere altogether more perilous. Element determining, cherry on the cake which makes of The Lonesome Sea a very frequentable album. The official site of Wayne Robbins Article posted by FF, May 26, 2005

- PinKushion Magazine


The Lonesome Sea-Goodluckcricket Records (2004)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Formed in the mountains of Asheville, NC in 2003, by Wayne Robbins, the Hellsayers were quick to receive a local buzz. The Spring of 2004 saw the recording and release of the Hellsayers debut, "The Lonesome Sea", which garnered them much regional acclaim with it's themes of death, love, religion and mariner's tales...all twisted up in a themed concoction of folk, indie rock, electronica and traditional music. With minimal distribution and exposure, “The Lonesome Sea” refuses to go unnoticed as glowing reviews pour in from all over the United States as well as the Benelux countries, England, Scotland, France and beyond. Aside from reviews, "The Lonesome Sea" has been featured on NPR, The Discovery Channel's Urban Explorers show and has caught the attention of many a like minded act, leading to invitations to share the stage with acts such as My Morning Jacket, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Smog, Magnolia Electric Co. and others. Demanding to be heard, Wayne Robbins & the Hellsayers are currently pulling from their 50+ song catalog for inclusion on their 2006 sophomore release...