Jimmy Robinson is best known as a member of Woodenhead and the guitar-wizard triumvirate Twangorama, as well as one of the best electric guitarists in the country, much less New Orleans. On his new CD Guitarworks, Robinson is mostly alone with an acoustic guitar, filling the extra space with virtuosic playing so hyperactive you might suspect these recording sessions left nicks and dents in his 12-string. The harmonics-loving Robinson slaps and scratches and otherwise uses the guitar as a wildly melodic percussive instrument. Though the record lacks almost any other instruments—save a few horns, and an appearance by Washboard Chaz—you often wonder “what was that sound?”
While Guitarworks is bursting with great playing, mixed bag. The best of the songs, “Can’t Stop Drinking,” gallops along fueled by a slide-guitar riff, the aforementioned Chaz, and Robinson’s finest vocal performance of the album, which finds him hitting high notes like Jeff Buckley. “You and Me” begins with a studio choir intro, while “River of Tears” finds Robinson harmonizing with Susan Cowsill. Beth Patterson sings on “You Make Me Crazy,” an acoustic rock song featuring a forced but still fun and trippy layered vocal breakdown and a nice ambient ending—easily the album’s most psychedelic track.
While the vocals are strong throughout, Guitarworks is mostly about Robinson’s playing, which is showcased on the instrumentals. “Lynne Louise” is a lyrical 12-string acoustic guitar piece displaying Robinson’s frenetic fluidity over various shifting terrains. “Psycho Gras” features percussive tapping to rival Eddie Van Halen. Robinson reinterprets several cover songs, the most successful being Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Robinson could have surely had a lot of fun with the song’s famous intro, but showed remarkable restraint and replaced the guitar with a horn arrangement. Robinson’s fans will enjoy hearing him untethered from his bands, and singing like a true frontman. Though the songs might benefit from full band arrangements, it’s fun to hear Robinson take off in any direction he wants, indulging in many beautiful tangents and crazy breakdowns.
The CD release show will take place on July 6 at Carrollton Station.