Photo by: Howard Druckman
Every now and then, it's a truly enriching experience to hop off the hype train of seasonal, fashionable music and settle in for a stopover at Real Thing Junction.
It's where Kim Deschamps lives. Best known as Blue Rodeo's longtime pedal steel guitar player, Deschamps' slide of hand has also brightened the recordings of everybody from Barenaked Ladies (check out his killer work on the bonus track "Long Way Back Home," from their massive Stunt album) to indie-rock upstarts The Carnations (on their brand-new one, A Return To Melody).
Left to his own devices, the Hamilton-based, perpetually Hawaiian-shirted Deschamps writes fine songs in a blues/roots/occasional reggae vein, sings them with verve and a raw kind of authority, and consistently proves that he's one of the two or three greatest slide guitarists that Canada's ever produced.
At Chicago's, folks were jammed in like sardines and cheering like a Stanley Cup crowd while Deschamps and his band rocked 'em like a stone cold mutha. "Love & War" was an early highlight, an infectious groove that built from pulsing, fingerpicking tension in the verses to a kickass power-chord release in the choruses.
Switching to dobro, Deschamps introduced "Loser Explains" by mentioning that he misspent his youth "playing guitar at home" instead of shooting cue down at the local pool hall, so he tends to lose at eight-ball. But goddamn, if that's what it took for him to play like a king, it was worth it. Very greasy (to quote another genius slide player, David Lindley), very tasty, skillet-lickin' pickin'. In fact, I could have written this entire review about his endlessly captivating slide guitar playing, but then you wouldn't get an accurate, well-rounded picture of the gig.
As if to prove that it ain't all about guitar heroics, Deschamps played "20 Some Years," a real-life song about a love strong enough to last that long. Between the country/gospel changes and the heartfelt sentiment (though never even threatening to cross the line into the land of the sappy), it's as good a devotional song as John Hiatt has ever written. (One suspects that Deschamps may have picked up a thing or two from his decade or so playing and recording with ace songwriters Cuddy and Keelor.)
In the blues/roots-rockin' tradition, Deschamps writes musical changes and storytelling lyrics that are so timelessly true, and plays them with such undeniable skill and passion, that he can keep knockin' listeners out for the rest of his life. Long after this season's flavour has soured and evaporated, he'll be jammin' like the abovementioned mofo at Real Thing Junction. It's a nice place to visit, and I'm really glad he lives there. (If you want to visit in the comfort of your own home, you can pick up Deschamps' current album, Take Me Away, at a music retailer near you.)review and photo by Howard Druckman, Chartattack
Review of “Deadicated” CD in Guitar Player Magazine, July 1991
From the Take Back Country website:
(Columbia) Recorded during two shows at the legendary Gruene Hall, Live shows why Charlie Robison is one of the biggest draws on the Texas Music circuit. Though he hasn't as yet had his breakthrough hit to make him a national household name, you'd never guess it from this disc. The crowd is thoroughly pumped, and you can hear them singing along with every word in the background. Charlie even hands them over a verse here and there.
The set consists of several long time Robison crowd favorites from his independent releases, along with a sprinkling of cuts from his last studio album (and first major label release), Step Right Up. Helping Charlie bring his songs to incredible life is his impeccable backing band, The Enablers: Dave Appel (Hammond 3-B Organ, keyboards, piano), Kevin Carroll (lead guitar), Kim Deschamps (pedal & lap steel, mandolin), Scott Esbeck (bass, background vocals) and Keith Robinson (drums).
The disc kicks off in high gear with the infectious Bruce Robison penned and Doug Sahm influenced Texas gumbo of "Poor Man's Son," with 3-B pulsating throughout. Next up is the irreverent tongue-in-cheek honky tonker, "You're Not The Best." Charlie delivers a funky take that raises the sex appeal meter on "Right Man For The Job" that blows the doors off the studio version. A real standout is the slow, bluesy, dark and haunting tale of love, murder and betrayal, "Loving Country," one of Charlie's very best songs. He provides some terrific soulful vocals on the twisted irony of "The Preacher."
Live's centerpiece and highlight is the stellar eleven minute plus version of "Tonight," which Charlie starts off with the tale of his and brother Bruce's teenage years in Bandera before moving into the actual song. In the middle of the song, he intertwines verses of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," slowed down to ballad speed, and then moves back and forth between the lyrics to both songs. The entire piece works perfectly as a poignant reminiscence of youth and really spotlights Charlie's amazing creativity and diversity.
Further proving to expect the unexpected from Charlie, he next hits you with a few verses from Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold," leading the way into a butt kicking rendition of his driving honky tonker "Barlight." In keeping with the theme of drinkin', no Charlie Robison show would be complete without "Life Of The Party," and he provides the appropriate wobble to this great shuffling version. He next tackles the outstanding "The Wedding Song," which was a duet with Natalie Maines on the disc Step Right Up. However, because Natalie can't be there to sing her verses at Charlie's live shows, he uses audience volunteers to stand in and sing her parts. This version's no exception, and the obviously thrilled chorus of girls chosen to sing here do a fine job, and a good time seems to have been had by all.
Charlie once again uses a bit of classic rock as an opening to his own songs, this time The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" which moves into his song of self-destructive heartbreak, "Sunset Boulevard." He then delivers an exhuberant and spirited bit of the Irish with another standout, "John O'Reilly." He shifts gears again with another round of covers done reggae style- Steve Miller's "The Joker" which moves into Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and keeping the reggae beat, he then moves into "Luckenbach, Texas" before finally landing in the disc's closing live track, a poignant but rousing steel laden rendition of his terrific "My Hometown," where Charlie gladly lets the audience take over on vocals for a verse.
Live closes with a newly recorded studio track, the Jay Knowles/Cory Mayo penned "Walter," a country-rocker about a guy who's unhappy about the guy the girl who dumped him is now seeing.
Live serves as a first rate testament that Charlie Robison is one of the most creative artists out there today, and one of the best Texas has to offer. His original songs (as well as those either written by brother Bruce or both brothers in tandem) are strong and intelligent, but also often witty and full of humor, and sometimes brash and pull no punches. The kind that connect deeply with people. The kind that people know all the words to and sing along with. His ease and comfort on stage shows how well he in turn connects with his audience, and Live really shows how he much he obviously enjoys what he's doing- whether going for more thought provoking subjects or just flat out trashy humor- everyone's having a good time...the performers, the audience, and to our good fortune in this case, the listener.
Photo by: Fred Rollison
Robison scorches the room
From The Village Voice, New York, NY
October 29, 2004
by Matt Cibula
Lots of people hate Charlie Robison, but Charlie Robison is not one of them. Nashville people hate him because he calls that nice little Brad Paisley a fucking moron in interviews and was a really harsh judge on Nashville Star, but Charlie doesn't care, 'cause he lives in Texas and talked Sony Nashville into putting out a record of him playing live in New Braunfels—on his birthday, no less.
All this texasismo wouldn't mean a thing if Robison weren't tearing through some of the best songs of the past 10 years. He scorches the room with the eight-minute murder ballad "Loving County," tonks it up with his comedy stuff, and shows exactly why Nashville is terrified of his skill, intelligence, charisma, and fuck-y'all attitude. Because who in Music City could play snippets of "Stranglehold" and the Stones like they meant it? Could anyone's band bounce as hard as the Enablers on the Irish folkenanny "John O'Reilly," then punch out a Steve Miller/Marley/ Waylon medley without spilling a drop?
And no way would anyone else stretch brother Bruce's song "Tonight" out to 12 minutes with high school reminiscences about cruising in a 1975 moss-gold Chevy pickup, shotgunning Schaefer, and cranking metal. When Robison starts crooning "You Shook Me All Night Long" to that lazy country beat, you realize he's the one who will save us all. Unless he's too hung over.
November 21, 2003
Out of all of the acts that I’ve seen, I had yet to see one of the Texas originals, Charlie Robison. I had seen his brother, Bruce a few times (who has penned some of Charlie’s songs) but not Charlie. I hooked up with a few friends and went down to Billy Bobs Texas to check him out.
Billy Bobs is one of the best venues to see a live performance and according to a lot of those performers; it’s a great place to perform as well. Charlie is no stranger to Billy Bobs, he’s played their numerous times.
Tonight there was a pretty good crowd, a little less than I expected but still a lot of people there. Charlie came out sporting a new hairdo; he said he’ll never let his wife trim it again. I’m sure he was kidding; he did cover it up with a cowboy hat most of the night though, hmmm. Charlie is a true entertainer and had the crowd and especially the women in his hand.
Charlie played all of our favorites and some great covers too. He played some off of Life of the Party including “Poor Man’s Son,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Barlight” and “Loving County.” He also did some of off of his CD Step Right Up, like “Right Man for the Job” and “Life of the Party.” Charlie’s new CD is a live one and has been selling real well; I wish he had done a Live at Billy Bobs CD recording that night, it would have been a good one but the one he recorded at Gruene Hall aint half bad.
In addition to Charlie’s hits he also did a few great covers like the Stones, “Honky Tonk Women” and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town.” I was really surprised, Charlie's got a lot of rock n roll in him and his band is straight up kick ass! We had a really good time at the show and I for one want to see Charlie Robison again; maybe a River trip would be good? Whatch ya think?
See you down the road, Cary