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Majestic Halls      Review

Newsflash: a fine review from Graham Munn at Rhythm and Booze which will also appear Blues In Britain Magazine.


Well, OK, I admit, a completely new name to me, but it would appear Graham has been making music since back in the 60’s, though not really making much of a nationwide impact, until his more recent album ParishPapers & Short Stories.Released in 2015 and finding wide interest as well as critical acclaim, both here, and in Europe, particularly Germany and Holland.

 

3 years on, and this native of Watford, is releasing Majestic Halls, a 10 track album, that’s easy on the ear, but engaging, with a rootsy, American country bent, warm melodic lyrics and rhythms. You will find touches of gospel, blues and soul, as well as a bit of swinging R&B.

Graham has written and produced the album, recorded in Session Corner, Luton, and is released through 33 Jazz Records.

Straight up, my first impression, is listening in on an acoustic Van Morrison, in country blues mode, playing in a small intimate bar, with a smile on his face! If that’s an accolade, so be it, though no idea where you would fit the 10 additional musicians who worked on this recording.

Graham’s, ‘Hall Of Faith’, has the whiff of gospel, country style, slowly revealing the band, involved in this album, the core of guitar, bass, and drums are there, plus Graham;s Harmonica, Hammond, violin, and some nicely layered sax, a lovely warm welcome to album. Switch up the tempo, feed the jukebox, and bring on the jiving R&B, of ‘Three Foot Spoon’, sure to get those high heel sneakers moving on the floor.

The Irish connection is firmly in place for the softly flowing, ‘ Nights In Coleraine’, making a delightful Celtic connection. Cross the Atlantic and find your way to the Delta, for a song dedicated to the late great BB King, ‘Indianola Mississippi’, stripped down to guitars, cahon? And Graham’s lyrics, which take snippets of BB’s best known songs to create a beautiful blues tinted picture of the man from Indianola. Maybe I’m biased, but this track really stands out for me.

Call in at the Country & Western roadhouse for, ‘For One More Margerita’, and move on to the soul drenched, slow dawning, ‘The Great Awakening’, with softly brushed percussion, strong vocals, a hauntingly mellow, soprano sax, and gentle violin. The qualities of Graham’s dusty vocals are really out on display on a song that runs near 9 minutes long.

‘Pure Soul’, lifts the pace, with sweet horns, and a lively, swinging rhythm, and lyrics that have you walkin’ the dog, with Rufus, Otis and Marvin.

The albums title track, ‘Majestic Halls’, raises the blues spirit, to hear the heavenly lyrics of this fine ‘hymn’, complete with its church like organ playing out. Not sure if its the right comment to make, but its a beautiful song, that I’m sure will find its way into accompanying many a soul to their final resting place.

Mr Robins may have been a journey of discovery for me, but a pleasure to listen to this finely crafted, soulful country blues, if thats your bag, then they don’t come much better than this. It is hard to fathom why Graham Robins is not more universally recognised, but maybe, Majestic Halls, might just change that.

Review by Graham Munn (Rhythm and Booze)

 

 

'Parish Papers & Short Stories

 CD REVIEW. From: FRUK

 

Born in Watford and raised on music, Graham Robins has been making music since the 60s without ever really registering on the national radar, although, as a member of London outfit the Soul Survivors, he did have some minor success in 1993 with a cover of Whooly Bully featuring Vinnie Jones, for which he wrote the B-side, Crazy Games. He also enjoyed a degree of success on the theatre front, writing a musical and a couple of plays, one of which was serialized on regional BBC radio. 1998 also saw the release of his solo debut album, Spirit Within, on the Luton-based 33 Records for whom he still records, followed, in 2006, by the stripped down acoustic Roll Back the Years.

Although warmly received by his fan base, neither did much to boost his wide profile in the UK. However, the release of The Shipping News, in 2011, finally brought wider attention, accruing positive national and online reviews for his Van Morrison-esque Celtic and Atlantic soul. An official follow-up is planned for later in the year, but in the meanwhile Parish Papers & Short Stories is a collection of past material, enhanced, tweaked, remixed or recorded. Not that any of it sounds remotely dated and it again serves to underline comparisons to the vintage days of Van the Man as well as shades of Sam Cooke and, on Hold On To The Light (a co-write with former fellow Soul Survivor sax player Paul Devonshire), I would also venture to suggest late 60s/early 70s Tom Jones.

Although Robins notes that these songs are taken from the archives, only two have ever been previously released, Lonely Heart and Elysium Fields both appearing on his debut. The remixed former is a terrific Celtic soul ballad featuring just Robins accompanied by Devonshire on horns and Mike Adcock on keyboards while the latter (one of several numbers underscoring Robins’ literate background), again featuring Adcock as well as a string trio, has gospel undertones, musically and lyrically, informed by early years singing in church choirs and would have sounded totally at home on Moondance.

There’s shades of an even earlier Morrison on organ accompanied album opener, Parish Papers, which, despite the lost love lyrics, is an uptempo toe-tapping number in the spirit of Brown Eyed Girl, complete with swinging horns and a sha la la de da chorus. It’s also one of two numbers to mention the EuroTrain, a nod to the fact Robins has a sizeable following across the channel. Indeed, as well as mentioning Dublin, Martine (a restless musician’s soul blues song with reverb guitar and accordion about missing the woman back home while also needing to find escape that’s also veined with hints of a troubled relationship with his friends Jack, Jim and Mr. Jameson) talks about taking a trip to Brussels.

Prior to this comes the lyrically hopeful, redemptive Starting Over Again, a solid rolling mid-tempo country soul featuring backing vocals Lee Devine and Sue Gray while its American notes surface to even stronger effect on the brassy Memphis soul feelgood swing of Walking In The Footsteps Of A Soul Man which references, directly or obliquely, Cooke, Arthur Conley, Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson and is most definitely one to have blaring out loud from the car stereo on a sunny day.

He stays down south for Going Down To Georgia, a slow burn soul ballad that name-checks Otis (and, by implication, nods to Ray Charles) and has a groove reminiscent of Crazy Love, then comes the bluesier, steady paced groove of Strong with Richard Symonds on organ, Devonshire on sax and some solid Gary Moore-ish blues guitar from James Litherland and a lyric that talks of recovering from adversity but which, given some of the imagery, could, in parts, also be given a Biblical second coming reading.

The album ends with the year’s second reference (the other being from Thea Gilmore) to the phrase Crossing the Rubicon, here also as the song title, a rolling melody soul swayer that’s both about reaching out and not giving up (“I won’t stop till the work gets done”) that slips in a reference to Judy Garland the Wizard of Oz and fades away far too soon.

The songs here may have been gathering dust, but, brought out into the light, they have produced a hugely listenable and enjoyable album, a perfect soulful accompaniment to summer and further evidence of Robins’ fabulous voice and huge talent. It’s already on my list of 2015’s Top 10 releases and, if the new one does appear come the autumn, he could well make it a double.

Review by: Mike Davies

 

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   To buy Majestic Halls click below   £15 inc shipping

CD Review.

Blues Magazine NL

Graham Robins – Parish Papers & Short Stories
Release datum: 26 mei 2015

Tekst: Piet Muijsert

 

Graham Robins: hij heeft het weer geflikt: een nieuwe CD: Parish Papers. Graham, geboren in Watford; the county of Herfordshire UK. Ongeveer 30 minuten van Noord-Londen; sinds een aantal jaren bekend in Apeldoorn en omgeving, is in staat om de soul, de blues, de country en gospel met elkaar te combineren. En dat leidt tot de typische Robins sound: goed in gehoor liggend kampvuurmuziek; met een onstuitbaar verlangen naar een wereld waarin mens en natuur met elkaar in evenwicht zijn.

De CD opent ( dat kan helemaal niet: een CD die opent, maar goed) met de titelsong Paris Papers; een vrolijk nummer dat niet helemaal de hele CD dekt. De typische Robin. Sound begint eigenlijk bij nummer 3 van de CD: Martine. Heerlijk in het gehoor liggend en is de opmaat voor song nummer 4 Lonely Heart; hier komt de Robins sound en de tekst helemaal bij elkaar: wachten op een eenzaam hart bij een eenzame rivier, in het middenland van de eeuwigheid:

‘There’s a lonely heart calling out your name, In the night wondering where you are, And where the time goes between the summer and the fall, It goes so slow like there is no time at all, Waiting for your lonely heart / waiting for your lonely heart, There’s a lonely river / towards the sea, Through the heartland for all eternity.’

En dan volgt het hoogtepunt van deze CD: Elysium Fields. Hier zingt Graham bijna smekend, bijna smachtend; met een prachtige piano- en vioolspel op de achtergrond. Dit is muziek waarop de liefde wordt bevestigd; waarop de laatste slok wijn wordt gedronken om elkaar eeuwig in de ogen te kijken; elkaars hand vast te houden om het zwijgen er toe te doen; bij dit lied trekt het leven aan je voorbij. Daarna hoeft er niets meer; ook geen volgend nummer. Dit nummer is genoeg: Dit nummer is Graham Robin! Dit is de échte Robins sound!

Na deze emotionele ontmoeting volgen nog meer nummers die gewoon lekker in het gehoor liggen en een verlangen oproepen om te reizen, te ontmoeten, zoals het nummer Going Down to Georgia. Vooral lieflijk is het nummer: Hold on To The Light, ook weer dat onweerstaanbare verlangen naar warmte, aandacht, naar bevestiging van het bestaan. Graham verlangt naar erkenning, verlangt naar gezien te worden, verlangt naar een warm nest; een warm heartland.

Het laatste nummer is krachtig; het lijkt wel of de ochtendzon hier doorbreekt. De nacht is voorbij, de klus van gisteren is geklaard: een nieuwe dag kan beginnen, de uitdaging ligt er. Parish Papers: Eenzame harten, eenzame rivieren, een onweerstaanbaar verlangen naar rust, naar een hand die vasthoudt en die zegt dat het leven goed is. De CD is goed: tekst, muziek, stem: het is met elkaar in evenwicht: Het is alsof ik in mijn Heartland ben aangekomen. Mijn reis is voltooid en op de achtergrond zingt Graham: ‘It was a lonely road I travelled…’

 

 

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We are proud to announce that Graham Robins is sponsored by Guitarshop Apeldoorn.

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