Saturday, 8 March 2014

Robby Hecht - Robbie Hecht Old Man Henry Records

With his roots firmly in the folk inspired singer-songwriter set, Robby Hecht is an established member of the Nashville based informal Americana movement and has the UK in his sights for development in 2014. To support a summer tour when Robby visits some of our established listening venues and a slot at the Maverick Festival, a new album hits the airwaves on March 24th to showcase why he is a respected artist. Choosing to go down the route of releasing a self-titled record, this 3rd album of Robby’s has all the components you would expect from a previous winner at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival. Although the album has moments of slightly inflated intensity it is best defined by a soft, soothing and serene sound.

Weighing in at 12 tracks and 44 minutes, Robby’s album is a thoughtful introspective record rooted in the art of personal expression. Produced by Lex Price (Mindy Smith, k.d. Lang), the former resident of Knoxville Tennessee has re-created a sound inspired by some of the great singer-songwriters of the past and is a comfortable fit into the wealth of folk-Americana which is currently undergoing a transatlantic resurgence.

There is much merit in raising the awareness of different types of mental illness and Robby doesn’t shy away from using the release to explain how he has come to terms with bipolar. The 3rd track on the album titled ‘Feeling It Now’ is his own composition on the subject and is a brave attempt to develop a coping strategy. Elsewhere the album has a couple of moments where the accelerator pedal is slightly more de-compressed including the track ‘New York City’ which has had a video made to enhance the album’s promotion. In a similar vein, ‘Papa’s Down The Road Dead’ is one of the album’s more rhythmic numbers but generally, tranquillity is the overriding feel from the listening experience best exemplified by the softening ‘Barrio Moon’.

My favourite track off the album is split between the country sounding ‘Soon I Was Sleeping’ where extra steel infiltrates the instrumentation and the gorgeous vocals of Juno winning songstress Rose Cousins join to form a duet. This is rivalled by the splendid ‘The Sea And The Shore’, a song which had duet status when it was originally recorded last year by Amy Speace and John Fulbright. This extended metaphorical masterpiece is a co-write between Robby and Amy, and his solo version only just falls marginally below the one involving Amy. Another excellent song on the album is ‘Hard Times’ which continually draws you to the song writing style of Gillian Welch during each listen. To add a little more diversity to the music, a touch of horns gives an alternative feel to ‘The Light Is Gone’.

While the album slightly undulates in its mood, the inbuilt tranquillity is a firm fixture of the final three tracks namely:  ‘Cars and Bars’, ‘Stars’ and ‘When I’m With You Now’. However the quality is seamless and the content is an antidote to throwaway pop that falls straight into the arms of an Americana movement raised on a diet of Townes Van Zandt.

When Robby teams up with fellow artists David Berkeley and Peter Bradley Adams under the New American Troubadours banner for their summer European dates, the stakes of song writing are certain to be raised and the bar of anticipation is to be set high. While we wait for these live dates, enjoying this 3rd release by Robby Hecht is the perfect aperitif. 

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