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RobinElla

Solace for the Lonely – 2006 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by Dave Bagdade

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CDs by RobinElla

This is RobinElla's first release in three years. Those who enjoyed her previous release, 2003's "Robinella & the CC Stringband," will be in for something of a surprise. That record featured a quirky energy as it moved from folk to neo-grass to swing and back again.

The new disc is a much moodier affair with a strong emphasis on quiet grooves. "Break It Down Baby" and "Press On" are both comprised of repeated vamps, which bring to mind an acoustic Lanois-era U2 with RobinElla's ethereal vocals wafting over the top. Her reliance on her upper register results in some startling waif-like sweeps in the middle of her vocal lines.

In fact, the focus is almost completely on RobinElla's vocals, which tend to the thin and reedy side. The Stringband album featured plenty of hot picking, but this is almost totally absent here. Even uptempto tunes such as "Down the Mountain" and "Oh So Sexy" feature composed lines instead of solos. RobinElla's producer and husband, Cruz Contreras (the "CC" in CC Stringband) has chosen to build a series of soundscapes under the vocals, using mandolin, fiddle and steel guitar along with understated percussion. However, the focus on grooves and the lack of instrumental contrast result in a record which starts to sound the same halfway through. Worthwhile for the fans, though.