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26 January 2011 @ 03:54 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #105: Robin Crow "Seven Leagues Under"  
If you’ve ever heard of Robin Crow then you get to move to the head of the class. If I had not been at the right place at the right time, then I would know very little about him as well. It’s been almost 10 years since his last release, or so I had thought before I saw on his site that he’d released a new album last year.

But let’s rewind a bit back in time to 1992. Robin released his first major distribution release through Rendezvous/BMG, after numerous releases on smaller independent labels. He was constantly touring colleges and that’s where I stumbled upon him. It was late October and I saw a couple of posters around the student center on campus about a Saturday night performance in the Agora. I was just coming off of seeing Def Leppard and Marillion live (both for the first time) in back to back weeks and I was still blown away by the latter’s show. I figured I’d check out this show as Robin came very highly recommended by the Director of Student Activities at the time, Tim Hatcher. Tim and I shared an appreciation for similar music and great guitarists. He said I’d be amazed by Robin’s guitarwork.

Sparsely attended didn’t even come close to the turnout in the Agora that night. But I didn’t care. I watched spellbound as the music unfolded and the guitar-work that spilled forth from Robin’s many guitars took my breath away. It was something the likes I’d never seen. There was a smallish backdrop lined with lights – and about 8-10 guitars in front of the backdrop on stands. The drums, bass, and keyboards were punched in via CD as his backing band and I believe he started his show with this week’s pick. The atmosphere in the Agora transformed as a longer intro through smoke and tone-setting lights slowly rose. I was hooked before he physically played a note as the production for this one guy was brilliant – about 30 lights (way too many for a single guy onstage) and fog combined with the low drone intro – this was a show! Once he started playing, he made every guitar sing and for his 75-90 minute set, all instrumental, the melodies were so strong and his stage presence so engaging that it didn’t need vocals, the guitar took care of the melodies and I was instantly pulled in. He performed a three song suite of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” Yes’, “Roundabout,” and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” which today is one of my favorite stretches of music – the atmospheric soundscapes juxtaposed with the blistering guitar-work is something to hear. And it’s that thread that runs though much of his Electric Cinema record, it’s very musically cinematic.

This week’s song, “Seven Leagues Under,” was co-written with Kansas’ Kerry Livgren (writer of so many of their best songs including “Carry on Wayward Son,” “Dust in the Wind,” “Icarus-Borne of Wings of Steel”) and it has that typical majestic Kansas-like feel. Check out the fretless bass mini-solo around 3:15, followed by a dramatic and almost unnerving keyboard section, broken by the soaring guitar at 4:15 before splitting off into the ending. But it’s that harmony guitar section at 1:50 that sticks in my head. 2:28 is magical. Turn it up to 11.

“Seven Leagues Under”


I think Tim might have taken me up onstage to meet Robin after the show and it was from there as they were breaking down his gear that I offered up to help (being the production geek that I was, and still am) and for the next hour I helped breakdown gear, pack it up, and load it onto their truck. It was Robin and 2 other guys, plus some stage help and it was a blast. As the merch table was breaking down I grabbed a 5-pack of LPs of his previous work (knowing that the college radio station had the CD and that I could order that, but when would I able to get the LPs anywhere) for $10. I was very excited that an acoustic instrumental version of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” was included as he stunned me with the live version which included a lot of striking the acoustic guitars body with his fingers to produce a brilliant drum pattern (something I’d never seen before). As we were breaking down the gear and loading the truck I was asking some questions and it was all loaded up since it was cold we continued our chat in the truck and Robin was relaying the story of how he came to be there and some of his experiences on the road. Obviously playing to a dozen people that night was discouraging, but he was resilient and determined. He was extremely articulate and motivated, regardless of size of the audience he had just played to and I remember being struck by his can-do attitude. I asked him to sign a gig poster and the LP that was on the top of the pile, Windows to the World, “Thanks for your support, Robin Crow.”

He was the first musician I’d met and what an impression he left. Such a genuine, nice guy. After touring and supporting that album Robin took a break from recording and touring, took his last pennies (literally) and built by hand the Dark Horse Recording Studio in Franklin, TN (Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Jewel, Neil Diamond, etc.). That story is detailed in his book, Jump and the Net Will Appear, his first of many as he broadened his focus to include writer and motivational speaker.

More Robin Crow:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjdIRDmGVeY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPMvqqPm8_k