Robbie Robertson mixes moods, melodic beauty on new solo album

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Robbie Robertson

“How to Become Clairvoyant”

Bella Coola/429

★★★ 1/2

Robbie Robertson hasn’t exactly been prolific as a solo artist since he parted ways with The Band in 1976, but he’s been consistently strong when he has surfaced. And that’s certainly the case with “How to Become Clairvoyant,” his first release in 13 years and an enveloping mix of mood, texture and genuine melodic beauty across the course of its dozen songs. The not-so-secret weapon here is Eric Clapton, a longtime Band devotee and Robertson pal with whom he started the project and who appears on seven of the tracks — co-writing two, dueting on the soulful “Fear of Falling” and playing acoustic gut-string guitar counterpoints on the instrumental “Madame X,” which also features nine inch nails’ Academy Award-winning Trent Reznor. Other high-profile helpers include Steve Winwood on three tracks, Robert Randolph — who plays pedal steel on the opening “Straight Down the Line” and “Clairvoyant” — and guitar whiz Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), who duels with Robertson on the name-checking “Axman.” What makes “Clairvoyant” even better is that it’s Robertson’s most personal solo record to date, too; after dipping into his own ethnic heritage for 1994’s “Music For ‘The Native Americans’ “ and 1998’s “Contact From the Underworld of Redboy,” this time out he’s comfortable in dealing with his rock ‘n’ roll past, singing about the end of The Band in “This is Where I Get Off,” the excesses of the lifestyle in “He Don’t Live Here No More” and the early days of rock — and his role in it — in “When the Night Was Young” and “Straight Down the Line.” “Clairvoyant” is a front-to-back treat, and hopefully it wont’ be another 13 years before we hear from Robertson again.

— Staff writer Gary Graff


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