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Music Review - "Dream" by Butch Robins (dm)

Butch Robins - Dream    (click on photo to watch video)

10 February 2019

Butch Robins-Dream

Mark Twain reportedly defined a “gentleman” as “someone who knows how to play the banjo but does not.” With his new record, Dream, songwriter and banjoist Butch Robins demonstrates that the great American author was unfairly derisive toward banjo pickers, and that there are great pleasures available in their music.

Citing Bill Monroe, Harry James, and Leon Russell as influences, Robins leads a quartet through a brief collection of songs that often defy category. Elements of jazz, bluegrass, and folk meet in the dreamscape of Robins’ imagination, creating a sonic quality that, appropriately, is imaginative, breezy, and ethereal.

Robins struggles as a singer, and his vocal melodies are overly reminiscent of each other, but the instrumental tracks allow his compositional creativity and banjo mastery to transport the listener to the surrealist geography of slumber. The musical language of Dream articulates the space in between actual experience and the fantasy reel of the imagination.

The opening song, “Hambone,” is one of several that showcase Robins’ interaction with his skillful and soulful keyboard player, Jimmy Wallace. The entire band moves in cohesion, playing with subtle deftness of craft and spirit. “Back Roads” immediately delivers the mind of the listener to Southern territory off the main map, and the title song thrills with a dynamic blend of upbeat energy and whimsical ornamentation.

Dream’s numbers with Robins’ vocals fail to triumph with the same resonance as his instrumental pieces, some of which would benefit from elaboration. No song has a running time over three minutes, and with many of the more enjoyable tracks, abridgement feels like a detriment rather than a gift.

It is easy and tempting, however, to close one’s eyes and allow Robins and company to overtake the mind’s ear and eye with their misty and lively spell.  

 David Masciotra

 

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

  


 

 

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