Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Fenton Robinson

  • Somebody Loan Me a Dime [Alligator, 1974] B+
  • I Hear Some Blues Downstairs [Alligator, 1977] B+
  • Nightflight [Alligator, 1984] B
  • Special Road [Evidence, 1993] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Somebody Loan Me a Dime [Alligator, 1974]
Blues devotees wonder why Robinson, originator of what is now regarded as Boz Scaggs's classic and clearly a blues musician of courage, imagination, and skill, remains unknown off the circuit. Let me suggest some reasons: 1) He's so smart he gets a lot of mileage out of his voice, but the voice itself lacks power as an instrument and a dramatic vehicle. 2) His songs are well-written but hardly catchy; the closest this comes to a hook is the chordal ascent on "Gotta Wake Up." 3) His formal extensions are stylish and thoughtful, but he rarely lets loose and just has a good time. B+

I Hear Some Blues Downstairs [Alligator, 1977]
Basically, this is an up--tempos faster, falsetto deftly and soulfully deployed, guitar unclichéed. In addition, the title song is a refreshingly matter-of-fact celebration of the form. But matter-of-factness is rarely refreshing for half an hour. B+

Nightflight [Alligator, 1984]
Is he the real thing? Yes. Does he play better than Michael Bloomfield? Yes. Does he play better than Elvin Bishop? Yes. Does he play better than Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop put together? Depends on what you mean by better. Does he sing better than Paul Butterfield? Probably not. Not even Paul Butterfield? Right. Is it 1965? No. Is he the real thing? Depends on what you mean by real. Doesn't it always? B

Special Road [Evidence, 1993]
his pain flows like whiskey, and he just wants to moan the blues about it ("Love Is Just a Gamble," "Crying the Blues") *