Critically revered, you always get the impression that Robin Trower’s name is not as well-known in the mainstream as it should be, not least because his album ‘bridge of sighs’ is a work of sublime beauty. With the man having reached the venerable age of 70 on the day of the album’s release, you’d imagine that there’s be some sign of slowing down, but like the great guitar gunslingers who have followed in the footsteps of Robert Johnson, Robin Trower is not interested in letting age slow him down, and ‘something’s about to change’, is a gutsy, gritty album that shows the guitarist in rare form.
Opening with the brilliantly gritty title track, Robin’s tone hits you squarely between the eyes. This is no exercise in late night nostalgia, this is an album of blistering solos, vibrant rhythms and taut bass lines and what makes it all the more remarkable is that Robin plays the lot apart from the drums (ably handled by Chris Taggart). Robin’s in fine voice, coming across as a mix of Tom Waits and Bob Dylan on the smoky ‘fallen’ which veers between relaxed blues and searing solos and thanks to the crystal clear production it often feels as if he’s playing in your living room. Robin’s secret is that his playing, never flashy, is directly from the heart. This is a musician; an artist; who plays for the sheer love of it, and that love is communicated through his stunning guitar work – no wonder Fender have chosen to honour him with his own signature guitar! The quirkily titled ‘riff No. 7 (still alive)’ has a springy, funky riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a John Mayer album and if you didn’t know better you’d say that the song was the work of a young man with the world, and his career, still out ahead of him. The cocky confidence, the insistent beat, it all comes together with a vitality that can only come from a deep love of playing and it is inspiring just to listen to it. Perfect to be played late at night, ‘dreams that shone like diamonds is a soulful, smoky jam that adopts the atmosphere of Leonard Cohen’s ‘waiting for the miracle’ and imbues it with a darker, bluesier edge. In contrast, ‘Good morning midnight is classic blues, filled out with Robin’s wonderful guitar work. It rounds up the first half of the record nicely and is the ideal showcase for Robin’s near-perfect tone.
A brighter piece, ‘What you never want to do’ has a funky, big band feel to it with sparkling organ and chunky riffs providing the perfect backing for Robin’s rich, warm vocals. It provides a neat line between the slower, darker blues of ‘what you never want to do’ and the similarly soulful ‘strange love’ which features some of the album’s most sublime soloing. ‘Gold to grey’ is a graceful piece with a mid-period Clapton vibe to it (think ‘it’s probably me’), the smooth bass runs and gentle guitar lines contrasting nicely with the grittier solo work that skates across the surface of the track. You can’t keep a good guitarist down for long, however, and we’re back into sprightly, funky territory with the memorable, swinging ‘The one saving grace’, a track guaranteed to get the dancefloor moving when Robin hits UK shores for a series of live dates later this month. Recalling the classic blues of BB King, ‘Snakes and ladders’ is the blues played straight, with a shot of whiskey and a battered guitar. It’s traditional and beautiful in equal measure and it leads neatly to the brilliant ‘up and gone’ with its gritty guitar work and shuffling tempo redolent with swampy atmosphere, as if Robin and Chris relocated to New Orleans for the song. The album ends with ‘til I reach home’, a dusky closer with yet more wonderful guitar work and a melody to die for.
Spend an hour in the company of this album and you’re likely to be hooked for a year, spend a day in its company and it may well become one of your favourite blues albums yet. Robin Trower’s strength is his ability to take traditional blues forms and bend them to his will, filling them out with his endlessly graceful guitar work. As stated above Robin’s work is never flashy, rather he imbues each solo with an element of soul which, no matter how proficient the guitarist, can never be learned and can never be faked. The album is delightfully uncluttered and beautifully produced, meaning that, for the most part, it feels as if Robin and Chris are playing right there in the room with you and the end result is a blues album which plays directly to the heart. This is a wonderful, wonderful album and whether you’re a long-time fan of the blues or a total newcomer, it is surely an essential record.