Most of the current crop of plugged-in blues purveyors draw from a relatively narrow range of the tradition: either the small combo sound of Chicago, or the guitar trio format popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn. This is a function of economics as much as anything else; the horn-section-enhanced sound of T-Bone walker, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland is prohibitively expensive to support in the low budget world of today's blues circuit, with only the established legends able to afford it. Thus it is all the more refreshing to hear Tad Robinson's brilliant take on this lushly arranged branch of the blues.
It is said that when radio programmers first met Tony Joe White they were astounded to discover that he was of the Caucasian persuasion; so too listeners who experience the huge, sandpaper and honey sound of Robinson's voice without seeing his sparkling blue eyes and shining, decidedly pink, shaved pate could be easily forgiven for assuming that the Indiana native is black. He is not someone trying to sound black mind you, but like Joss Stone, a case of the voice of one race being gifted to a member of another. I will go on record as saying that he is one of the greatest R&B singers around today--black or white.
His big voice would be for naught if the music were lame but far from it. The core rhythm section is kicking, and former Rod Piazza guitarist Alex Schultz covers the requisite blues and soul licks with panache while not being afraid to introduce some new twists. If you are going to add horns and strings to this roadhouse music, the arrangements better be right. Employing Willie Henderson, who made classic records with Tyrone Davis and the Chi-Lites, ensures that this is the case--the man is brilliant at adding sophistication without diluting the grit.
The final ingredient to a classic record must of course be the material and here too ANPOV measures up. From a cover of "Up and Down World" that stands proudly against both the Bland and Johnny Adams versions, to new tunes like the Tyrone Davis-like "You Get To Keep The Love," and the deceptively-hard-to-write, slow blues "Broken-Hearted Man" (where Shultz demonstrates that he has listened long and well to the blues guitar masters), Robinson's material holds up its end.
A New Point Of View revives the orchestrated soul/blues that was originated by the aforementioned artists and kept alive on labels like Malaco records, with their artists ZZ Hill, Denise LaSalle, and Latimore. If this last trio of performers is less familiar than King, Bland, et al, it is because in recent years this style of R&B has been the exclusive province of the black "chitlin' circuit." Hopefully A New Point Of View will change that and expose a wider audience to the thrill of this sexy, soulful version of the blues, and to Tad Robinson.