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Solace for the Lonely

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Album Review

Robinella & the CC String Band rippled the pond in 2003 with her band's self-titled Columbia debut. It offered the sound of a band of crack musicians fronted by a singer whose voice was chameleon-like in its ability to evoke country, bluegrass, pop, and jazz frameworks with sultry seductiveness, murky as smoke and yet alternately clear as water and fresh as the morning. The album showed promise, and delivered. Columbia was hoping for something akin to Alison Krauss' success. It didn't happen. This time out, Robinella Contreras shows up on the adventurous Dualtone label. She still has the CC String Band (named after her husband, Cruz Contreras), but only her name appears on the label. For those who were charmed by the last recording's flirtation with pop as it rooted itself in traditional country and bluegrass structures, this will come as a bit of a shock. For those uninitiated, Solace for the Lonely is a breath of clean sweet air. This is a pop record. Period. It's mature, sophisticated, elegant, heartbreakingly lovely, and poetic. There are songs about sex, spirituality, and love both pure and impure, and Jesus himself is called upon with confidence and joy. Country and bluegrass elements are everywhere present, but more as references than sources. What Robinella and Cruz — who plays mandolin, Fender Rhodes, guitar, and piano — have come up with is the recording they've been striving to make since their first album went to tape. Thanks to producer Doug Lancio (who understands balance and how to make anything sound like it was recorded in the living room), fiddles, acoustic guitars, upright bass, drums, and percussion keep the set from wandering too far afield from the roots. No matter what's happening, the feel is that this music is made from the ground up, with its roots firmly placed in Southern soil. "Press On" could have been produced by Daniel Lanois. A meditation on death and redemption, its whispering keyboards, muted tom-toms, sparse piano, and electric guitars underscore the poignancy in Robinella's lyric. The very next cut, "Down the Mountain," a modern spiritual, is a country tune defined by Cruz's mandolin, fiddle, and slowly strolling electric guitars. "Come Back My Way" is another melodic country tune. Other musics make their way here as well, as in "Little Boy" with its funky drums, wah-wah guitar, and chunky Rhodes and synth. Robinella's understated yet confident voice — like some cross between Billie Holiday, Minnie Riperton, and Annette Peacock — rises to the occasion and delivers effortlessly. Jazz winds its way in on "Break It Down" and "I Fall in Love as Much as I Can." Again, it's the instrumentation (Cruz's mandolin playing in particular) and arrangement that make the tunes swing (think Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli with Holiday fronting the band). Robinella's voice is so versatile — so utterly loose, carefree, and expressive no matter what the material is — that she glides into every tune with an open delivery and digs into her words with an unhurried, roughhewn grace. She swings, emotes, and states with a quiet authority. Her cover of Melanie's "Brand New Key" transforms the tune from its original context as a romantic novelty into a seductive, sexy love song. Solace for the Lonely is a major step forward; it's full of adventure, fun, and mischief.

Customer Reviews


Robinella a Country and Blue grass singer has just released a new album and prior to last week I would have given it no chance. I first heard press on when listening to NPR’s all songs considered. The song was beautiful and it made me want to find out more about Robinella. Blue Grass is a genre that I didn’t give much chance but I found out that I like the smooth style and fun tempo that Robinella offers. With some fast songs that make you tap your feet this album might appeal to many people. When you tell some one that a blue grass album will make you dance they might give you a strange look, songs like Little Boy and Come Back My Way will have you thinking blue grass is your new cup of tea. If you prefer slow songs Solace for the Lonely has got them songs like Teardrops and Press On have a cool jazz sound that will keep you grooving with your morning cup of coffee. When I first head Robinella her strong voice will melt your heats and keep you glued to the lyrics. In Brake It Down Baby she tells you to “let me in, listen to my innuen…….do” Its like she is right there with you. With this album playing loud in your headphones or blasting from your stereo your will feel the music all over. With strong acoustic rhythms and soft jazzy drumbeats every song is sweet and different. It’s hard to recommend an entire album, but there is no song out of place. Some people have a hard time listening to anything close to country. The stigma of cowboys and rangers throwing together story music and playing for good old farm boys holds people back. The roots of American folk music are country and blue grass is a big part of country. To call your self a fan of music is to take away stigmas and stereotypes connected to genre. If you give and music some chance you might end up liking something that you were afraid of or heated before. This album is a gem and I can recommend it to anyone looking to spice up his or her music collection. This is something that I would have never considered last week and it blew me away and made me re-think what music I enjoy. 5 out of 5 stars

Superstar of tease

'Solace for the Lonely' is my first encounter with Robinella. It won't be my last. I love these musical chameleons, who can take on all sorts of styles. This album is a tour de force in jersey-changing, switching from R&B to pop to bluegrass to soul to country. Honestly, is she black or white? I don't know and I don't care. Maybe she is both. That voice has something special, and even with all that power, it teases. 'Break it Down Baby' is a great track to lead it off. It's showy and jazzy, and yeah, it teases. I also love the haunting simplicity of 'Press On' ... and then comes twangy 'Down the Mountain.' No matter the style, the voice is crystal clear and so intriguing. I love it.

great new album

Found this by accident searching for the old version of Brand New Key. What a great voice and style she has! Has a folk sound to it, low tech. Great!


Born: Knoxville, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Robinella & the CC String Band is the brainchild of mandolinist Cruz Contreras, who formed the group's precursor, the Stringbeans, in 1997 while attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as a jazz piano major. The bluegrass band's co-founder was singer/guitarist Robin Ella Tipton, and it also featured other UT students Jay Clark, Clint Cagle, and Joel Keebler. Adding jazz elements to their sound, the Stringbeans attracted local attention, but not enough to keep Clark, Cagle, and Keebler...
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Solace for the Lonely, Robinella
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