Robinella - Solace for the Lonely

Solace for the Lonely


First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2006, Volume 13, #3

Written by Tracy M. Rogers


Robinella Contreras has the voice of an earthbound angel, one that possesses the jazzy, lilting musicality of Sarah Vaughan as well as the rugged, earthy twang of Lucinda Williams. Solace for the Lonely, her latest outing with the marvelous (yet here uncredited) CC String Band, is filled with questions of faith and fate and tales of love, both lost and found. Musically, the effort is an upbeat, minimalist pop album that is influenced greatly by jazz, bluegrass, folk, country, and soul music.

Solace for the Lonely begins with the jazz- and bluegrass-inspired Break It Down Baby — a sultry "come hither" song that is set to funky brush drums and upright bass and is accented by Cruz Contreras’ multifaceted mandolin. "Break it down baby/you can show me the way/hold me, squeeze me, swing and sway," croons Robinella as the song builds into a blues-y, bluegrass-tinged jam. By contrast, the title track sounds like ’70s-era Steely Dan with soaring yet subtle fiddle and mandolin added to the mix. A testament to her faith, the song features some of her more poetic lyrics as well as a stunning vocal performance. "Some glad morning when I rise/see the light and shed this disguise/I’ll become what I envisioned in a far away dream/and I will sing," she lilts like a ’50s jazz diva. Elsewhere, Robinella reveals her newgrass roots (the gospel-infused Down the Mountain and the Alison Krauss-inspired Teardrops); her adoration for funky, R&B-infused pop (the Stevie Wonder-esque Little Boy and the blues-y, B3-driven All I’ve Given); and her love of ’70s pop (the playful, rollicking Waiting).

Only two songs seem out of place on Solace for the Lonely: the countrypolitan barroom affair Oh So Sexy and the rather mainstream folk-pop ballad Whippin’ Wind. The former is lyrically uninspired; the latter a bit maudlin. Nevertheless, the closing songs on the album easily overcome these miscues. Robinella’s version of Melanie’s oft-covered Brand New Key is delightful in its minimalist folk playfulness, and it serves as the perfect vehicle for her voice because it allows her brazen, roots-y twang to come to the fore. I Fall in Love as Much as I Can is a country/jazz boogie that features an old-fashioned, upright bass riff; a driving drum beat; Cruz Contreras’ spirited mandolin solos; and rousing fiddle flourishes — all of which mesh perfectly with Robinella's Billie Holiday-inspired, cool jazz vocals. Robinella’s voice alone makes Solace for the Lonely a worthwhile purchase, but Cruz Contreras’ otherworldly mandolin refrains combined with Doug Lancio’s laid back, subtle production shape the album into something that is beautifully irresistible. starstarstar ½

Solace for the Lonely is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box