The first thing you hear on Tad Robinson's new album Back In Style (Severn) is the whirl of Kevin Anker's Hammond organ on the song "Rained All Night." Soon to follow is a rhythm section that sounds amped to play all night. The song is a throwback to the late, great Willie Mitchell productions for the Memphis based Hi-Records in the 70s, especially those with Al Green.
Hear "Rained All Night" from Back in Style (courtesy of Severn):
The I-IV-V songs are fading away with this latest release, his third for Severn, as Robinson continues to blend blues and soul.
"We're gravitating deeper into soul territory and groove-oriented music," Robinson explains. "There's something for everybody. Some blues but not as much as before. It's an homage to the Hi and Stax sounds from Memphis mixed with forward thinking and adding it to the soul cannon."
And how about those Memphis Horns?
"They create a real nice foundation for the tunes," he says. "My producer [David Earl, who collaborated with Steve Gomes and Robinson] thought they would be right and would be a great opportunity. They fit like a glove and are on seven of the ten tunes."
Appropriately enough, his upcoming Jazz Kitchen gig will feature a horn section.
"It's a full-fledged thing," Robinson says. "We want to get the people in, obviously. I wanted to reward the Kitchen with the full treatment."
Before he made his way to Severn, Robinson recorded several albums as a bandleader and sideman for Chicago-based Delmark Records. One of Robinson's earliest recordings (with Al Miller's Wild Cards) has been reissued.
"I sang the Syl Johnson tune 'Stuck in Chicago,'" Robinson says of the record.
His current home, the Maryland-based label Severn, is churning out album after album of guitar slingers (although the label's recent Johnny Moeller album Bloo-Ga-Loo is a must listen). The label also features vocal giants Lou Pride and Darrell Nulisch.
"Severn is making a stand," he says. "They want to present singers. It's less about guitar heroes and more about singers. Song oriented, groove oriented, they're feeding into this thing."
Robinson says he likes listening to the recent crop of soulsters like Sharon Jones, Eli "Paperboy" Reed and Seth Walker.
"I've been doing this for over 20 years. All of a sudden it's hip again? For me, it never went away," he notes. "However, they are helping shine a light on artists like Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright, Lou Pride and Dan Penn. The original architects."
Matthew Socey is host of THE BLUES HOUSE PARTY for WFYI 90.1 FM. The show is a headline sponsor for Robinson's upcoming concert at the Jazz Kitchen.