by Janet Goodman
“Finally I decided it was time to stop being a sideman and step into the limelight,” says blues artist Mark Robinson. The onetime guitarist for Chicago performers such as Koko Taylor and Jimmy Johnson, and Nashville’s Tracy Nelson and Tommy Womack came out from the supporting-role shadows when he released his debut album back in 2010, “Quit Your Job – Play Guitar.” Now his sophomore effort on Blind Chihuahua Records, “Have Axe – Will Groove,” shows he is settling into his newfound place with a maturing artistry.
Self-produced along with Daniel Seymour, this project features eight of eleven tracks written or co-written by Robinson, whose blues train makes whistle stops in Memphis, Chicago, the West Coast, New Orleans and Mississippi. His “Pull My Coat” sounds like a jazz blues standard, as does “Lifetime Prescription,” where he strains to tell us his story: “Left a trail of misery/Led a life of sin/Done my share of paying dues/I loved those painted women/With their cigarettes and gin/I’ve got a lifetime prescription for the blues.” Solos are worth waiting for, and he lets out his guitar and reins her back in with panache, as on his take of Doc Pomus’s “Lonely Avenue.”
Robinson’s edge is whetstone-sharpest when he takes risks, like on his out-of-the-box blues rocker “Broke Down,” and on the mini-masterpiece final track “Blue Moon Howl.” He stretches his voice on this mood-setting haunter, backed by a chain-gang moan and a downright eerie resonator. Listening to this album is an education in our American blues.
Visit the artist’s website at www.markrobinsonguitar.com
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