Mark Robinson is one of my favorite contemporary guitarists, a talented string-bender who can deliver songs with either subdued sizzle or flamethrower intensity. The two acclaimed albums that Robinson has released to date – 2010’s Quit Your Job, Play Guitar and 2013’s Have Axe Will Groove – garnered all sorts of rave reviews from your humble scribe. Of the former, I concluded “expect big things in the future from this ‘self-employed’ singer/songwriter” while of the latter I said “Robinson proves that’s he a talent to be reckoned with, and you can climb on the bandwagon now or wait until he’s a festival headliner…”
Robinson has kept busy since Have Axe Will Groove, producing and performing on albums by a number of Americana artists, including an excellent effort by Nashville’s poet laureate, David Olney (his 2014 LP When The Deal Goes Down). In a classic case of “what have you done for me lately,” Robinson answers proudly with a brand new ‘digital’ single, “Gone South.” This is no throwaway track tacked up on iTunes to gain some attention, but rather a carefully-considered and true double-sided single in the spirit of our beloved vinyl 45s of old.
As you can see and hear for yourself by watching the videos embedded below, “Gone South” is presented by Robinson as two entirely different-sounding versions, albeit both featuring the same exciting blues DNA. The ‘electric’ version of the song is a blustery, blues-rock tornado complete with swaggering, cerebellum-crushing fretwork that certainly owes a debt of gratitude to the late Texas masters Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. By contrast, the ‘acoustic’ version of “Gone South” is a rootsy delight, Robinson’s twang ‘n’ bang reading offering a laid-back Piedmont blues vibe in the vein of Eric Bibb or the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Both versions are unique and inspiring Robinson creations.
“Gone South” was recorded with the backing of bassist Daniel Seymour and drummer Justin Amara, with Robinson affording both versions of his skilled and creative fretwork. Poco’s Michael Webb adds keyboards to the ‘electric’ version of “Gone South,” joined by Pinmonkey’s Rick Schell’s backing vocals; country singer Luke Amelang provides backing vocals on the ‘acoustic’ take, while the SteelDrivers’ Richard Bailey plays banjo. Robinson’s dual-pronged approach to the song is more than just a clever way to provide differing musical perspectives, but is also representative of the guitarist’s underrated talents and immense artistic vision. Both versions of “Gone South” are available as a digital download from iTunes and Amazon.com.
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