Album review: 'How to Become Clairvoyant' by Robbie Robertson

By ' Allison Stewart, Monday, April , 6:00 PM

Robbie Robertson, former guitarist and chief songwriter for the bumptious, watershed '60s outfit the Band and a (very) occasional solo artist, is a virtuoso teller of other people's tales. On 'How to Become Clairvoyant,' his first solo disc in 13 years and his best since his self-titled solo debut, Robertson excavates his own history for the first time. 'Clairvoyant' is as close to a musical autobiography as it's possible to get.

It's all here: The formative years ('Straight Down the Line'), the lost weekend of the '70s ('He Don't Live Here No More'), the rise ('When the Night Was Young') and dissolution of the Band ('This Is Where I Get Off,' with a key line, 'Everything you leave behind / Catches up in another time,' that's a bumper-sticker summation of virtually all of Robertson's greatest songs).

'Clairvoyant' takes a leisurely tour of blues, folk, rock and Native American rhythms, everything coated with a heavy layer of atmospherics and an even heavier coating of seriousness; everything delivered in Robertson's signature talk-singing style.

'Clairvoyant' is stuffed with guest stars of every stripe: nostalgic (Steve Winwood), unlikely (Trent Reznor, Tom Morello) and super-size: The disc began as a collaboration with Eric Clapton, who co-wrote several tracks here. He duets on 'Fear of Falling,' the only track on which Robertson seems to lose his footing, probably because it sounds like an Eric Clapton song ' a middling Eric Clapton song. On a disc that is at its best when it's wandering the back roads of Robertson's past, it's an unnecessary detour.

' Allison Stewart

Recommended tracks:

'Straight Down the Line,' 'He Don't Live Here No More,' 'This Is Where I Get Off'

 

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