Robin Adams is being touted in his publicity as some kind of of new folk guru with names like John Martyn and Nick Drake being too casually tossed into the mix. “The Garden” emerges into a far different world than those deceased troubadours travelled through and in many ways it’s more difficult to find an audience than it was when Martyn delighted late night audiences on “The Old Grey a Whistle Test” and Nick Drake played to small appreciative crowds in tiny venues around the country.
Thankfully Adams wonderful acoustic guitar and wordy plaintive songs mark him out as something more than a mere copyist and he’s certainly worth spending some time with. His songs are more like word pictures with surreal poetic images that evoke a dream like quality. The instrumentation is sparse with only some light percussion and a touch of double bass here and there. The songs touch on issues of homelessness in a poignant “Street” and some anti-war rhetoric in “Right to Run.”
There’s echoes here to of Roy Harper in Adams sensitive picking with nods to the great Bert Jansch. The songs sound a little samey at times but this also helps to give the album unity and coherence. “Holy Smoke” opens with a gentle acoustic guitar and a mournful cello and delivers some sharp poetic images that evokes a sense of loss and sorrow and highlights Adams tender vocals.
Holy Smoke by Robin Adams
“Midnight Blood” is a tale of sinking ships with some wonderfully naked picking from Adams. It’s sparse and has a feel of real foreboding running through it. The album ends on “Collision Course” a dark and mysterious tale with dark visions, silent winds and “wandering near the edge”. The meaning is obscure but the song evokes feelings of fear and darkness.
This isn’t an album to use as background music but give it enough time and space in your life and it will creep into your soul and you’ll be spending time navigating the peaks and troughs of these haunting songs and delighting in Adams beautiful playing. Definitely an album to savour.
Reviewer: Greg Johnson