Critical acclaim for Robb's Confessin' My Dues from Living Blues magazine
June / July 2019 Issue #261, pp. 57-58
Confessin’ My Dues
NiaSounds – No #
Whenever you hear someone say that blues is simple and repetitive, too basic, play them a record by Terry Robb, starting with Confessin’ My Dues. There is a group of upper echelon acoustic blues virtuosos who can’t be confined strictly within the boundaries of any one genre. Terry Robb, a fingerpicker from Portland, Oregon, is one of them. While deeply rooted in country blues, he could be defined as a masterful instrumentalist in the broader “contemporary American string music” category, typically featured in Acoustic Guitar magazine, along with peers like guitar aces Woody Mann, Ed Gerhard, Jorma Kaukonen, and Michael Dowling. Like John Fahey and Leo Kottke before them, these players can blend in alongside the most refined musicians in the jazz, ragtime, bluegrass, and folk scene, with pickers like Tony Rice, mandolinist David Grisman, or Michael Jerome Brown. Robb could be in any “giants of the acoustic guitar” festival and dazzle the finger-gawking guitarist fans in the crowd.
The strange album cover hides the fun that is about to be unveiled as the indelible Robb is depicted like a dour 19th century preacher. But, don’t judge a book by its cover, because this album hooks you instantly with its fiery blues, ragtime, and swing, in 13 original compositions (Darkest Road I’m Told is nonetheless similar to Fred McDowell’s Highway 61). Robb is a stunning guitarist who plays with swift eloquence and blazing elegance, simply breathtaking perfection. He is supported by renowned jazz musicians Gary Hobbs on drums and Dave Captein on bass, featured throughout the album, along with blues guitarist Adam Scramstad who joins in on Keep Your Judgment.
Confessin’ My Dues is thoroughly satisfying. Any blues fan will find a few favorites here. He starts off with a bang, with the impeccable instrumental ragtime Butch Holler Stomp which sets the stage for the red-hot guitar work presented on this record, followed up by an equally potent instrumental, Deltastyle blues Still On 101. The instrumental Vestapol is another outstanding cut by this guitar maestro. This version was written by Terry Robb, John Fahey, and Robert Wilkins, based on a traditional song that derived from turn of the 19th century parlor guitar tradition. The term Vestapol normally refers to open D tuning. Maryland guitarist John Fahey popularized Vestapol in what some call American primitivism, arguably a misnomer. One of the gems of this album is the brilliant ragtime instrumental composition Death of Blind Arthur, a song that showcases Robb’s intricate fingerpicking mastery. Assumedly a tribute to the great ragtime picker Blind Blake, Robb not only shows his technical skills but brings out expressive soulful feeling in this stunning instrumental. You feel the sheer reverence down to the core. Simply beautiful! When he gets out the slide to take us down to the Delta, with tunes like the brilliant High Desert Everywhere, the matter is clear: Terry Robb is one of our finest acoustic guitarists today. He’s not just technically sublime; he plays with unrestrained passion that you will feel deep down inside.