Electra Musician Press Kit
|"I consider singing to be an extremely powerful way to confess things that might otherwise go unsaid. Small songs can tell big stories, can name places where the heart is standing."
On Rockabye, her second Elektra Musician recording, Robin Holcomb continues to lay claim to a new kind of songwriting artistry -- music that is underststed yet expansive, spare yet surging, imagistic yet earth-bound. Her 1990 self-titled debut established an artist on the rise, in the words of Rolling Stone, "smart, lovely and ambitious--****". Now Robin Holcomb delivers a collection of 10 songs seamlessly blending note and word in a unique pop context.
Gospel blues, shimmering guitars, rolling piano riffs, and a pumping rock beat all find their way onto Rockabye. With collaborators ranging from Peter Holsapple (db;s, REM), who produced and plays guitar on two tracks, to Gospel vocalist Jevetta Steele and saxman Doug Wieselman, Holcomb;s music spins an atmospheric web of American influences that extends from balladry ("Widowmaker") to R&B ("When I Stop Crying"). Likewise, Holcomb's poetry draws its strength from a very personal, American vision, fragmented but hopeful.
Holcomb's perspective on her art has been forged by rich and varied musical experiences, from her developement of an individual solo piano style to her work with chamber ensembles, Indonesian gamelans, improvising orchestras and musical theatre. With interests in folk music that emerged during her childhood in the South and the mountains of California, she expanded her musical vocabulary studying ethnomusicolgy and composistion at U.C. Santa Cruz.
During the 1980's, as a writer and pianist in New York's experimental music scene, she co-founded Studio Henry, a performance outlet where she gave poetry readings and concerts. Two Sound Aspects recordings from the 1980's ("Larks They Crazy" and "Todos Santos") feature her instrumental writing, and two more recent recordings on New World include big band works written for the ensemble she co-founded with Wayne Horvitz, The New York Composers Orchestra.
It was her theatre work, "Angels at the Four Corners", that the seeds for Holcomb's debut as a singer/songwriter were sown. Premiered in 1989 as part of New Music America, it combined storytelling with song, and Holcomb shared in the singing. Some of this material was included on her 1990 self-titled debut album, which earned enormous critical praise and a spot on the "1991 Pazz & Jop Poll" of the Village Voice, which called Holcomb's work "as literate as singer-songwriter gets".
Rockabye picks up those intelligent strands and weaves a backbeat into the mix. This rhythmic energy, coupled with Holcomb's verses on love, life, and womanhood, results in a recording that echoes the New York Times' appraisal of Holcomb's first songs: "remarkable...as elegantly simple as a Shaker quilt, and no less beautiful."