Throughout his debut release, Ric Robertson pairs well-crafted songs with an easy going vocal performance reminiscent of Paul Simon. The fact that The Fool, The Friend is Robertson’s debut surely portends great things to come.
“The Fool” kicks off the recording in a spirited fashion, but from a lyrical standpoint, you cannot help but feel like there is trouble waiting ahead. Sure enough, from the moment John Graboff’s plaintive pedal steel graces the opening of “Bullet” we’re headlong down the rabbit hole of despair. “The Dreamer” enters with a mellow swaggering funk as Robertson tackles the David Eagan number to great effect. The propulsive piano rhythm pushes things along until Eddie Barbash gets a chance to shine on saxophone.
On “Rachel” Robertson shows another side of his musical abilities as he delivers a rock solid pop song. “Windex Pete” which sits in sharp contrast with much of The Fool, The Friend is up next and, despite the theme of loss throughout the record, Pete appears just when we “need reminding of how simple life can be”—and Robertson makes clear that in times of loss the uplifting power of music is sometimes all that we really need.
Robertson’s reading of Jerry Reed’s “A Thing Called Love” gives Daniel Clarke an opportunity to work out the organ; and as such, it has more heft to it than Reed’s original. On “The Friend,” which would sit nicely along-side any number of Gram Parsons recordings, Graboff’s pedal steel is augmented nicely by Duncan Wickel’s string workout. Robertson closes out the recording with “One Fan” which features understated piano and strings while Robertson laments that “her memory is as relentless as New Orleans in the middle of June.”
Coming to grips with breakups, and loss in general, is never easy; but when the result is an album as fine as this, it is clear that Ric Robertson’s loss is our gain.