BluesWax Sittin' In With Tad Robinson
Redefining Soul Blues
for the 21st Century By Bob Putignano

Tad Robinson was born and raised on the upper east side of Manhattan and grew up with guitarist extraordinaire Alex Schultz. Robinson, obviously a fan of Sixties and Seventies Soul, listened to and absorbed the great radio stations that were once available in the Big Apple. Perhaps because of these early influences Robinson's vocals are all about Soul, which at all times keeps an appropriate Blues sensibility. So much so that one would wonder that had he been born earlier, perhaps he would have been part of the groundbreaking Soul explosion that occurred during that golden era. Additionally, unlike so many strong vocalists, Robinson's songwriting abilities make him a very special package.

Robinson spent his college days at Indiana State University, where he started to work in a band known as the Hesitation Blues Band, which made a few trips north to Chicago from time to time and eventually Robinson made the full time move to the Windy City. Not long after Robinson hit Chicago he started to work with another fine guitarist, Dave Specter & the Bluebirds, where he recorded Blueplicity and Live in Europe with Specter, which later led to Robinson's debut solo recording on the 1994 One to Infinity for Delmark and subsequently a second Delmark solo CD titled Last Go Round, which was recorded in 1998, both of which featured his New York City buddy - the extremely talented Alex Schultz on guitar. Next stop for Robinson was at the Maryland-based Severn Records where he garnered a Handy nomination on the 2004 Did You Ever Wonder? Robinson's second recording for Severn was released in March of 2007, that being the much anticipated A New Point of View. It is interesting to note that on each and every one of the four solo releases under Robinson's name, Alex Schultz as been his guitarist of choice.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Robinson during a radio interview at WFDU late in March of 2007, right around the same time of his new release of A New Point of View and following are some of the highlights of our conversation. Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Welcome, kind of sort of, back to New York City.

Tad Robinson: Yes, I was born in New York City and actually my parents still live in the same Manhattan apartment I grew up in on the Upper-East Side.

BW: The new CD, A New Point of View, sounds great and it's good to see you back for your second recording with Severn Records.

TR: Thanks, and we have a great team at Severn as they have put me with some heavy hitters who record on my CD and they do such great production, too. Their heart is in it, they are doing a great job, and I am trying to do my best for them, too.

"It's always is nice to be noticed by the Blues community."

BW: And you are working with a sharp cat with Jim Eigo doing promotions for the new CD.

TR: Yeah, I heard great things about Eigo and after one conversation with him and hearing him speak I knew we had the right guy, he's so New York and East Coast, so it was easy for me to relate to him immediately.

BW: And speaking of New York City, your old buddy, guitarist Alex Schultz, is back for the fourth recording you did under your own name.

TR: Alex and I have been friends for a long time. He used to be with Rod Piazza, the great harmonica player, for many years, as well as with William Clarke. He even played with Hank Ballard and the Midnighter's back in the Eighties. He lives part of the year in Germany and the other half of his time is spent in L.A. He also reserves time to record and go on the road with me. Alex raises my game a whole lot and he's a busy guy who records and tours with a lot of people. I call Alex "Mr. Taste"; as a lot of guitar players come out to see him when he is around as so many players really respect his playing. He's an exciting player, an awful lot of fun, and a great guy.

BW: How is the new CD doing?

TR: iTunes has me listed at number twelve in the Blues genre, so I guess there has been a little explosion of downloads. So it looks like the record is being noticed a little bit and Severn is doing their part to get the word out and giving it visibility.

BW: Are you planning to tour behind the new CD?

TR: This year I will be going to Norway for a little bit doing a Blues cruise with other Severn artists called the "Severn Soul Review," with me, Lou Pride, Darrell Nulisch, Sugar Ray Norcia, Alex on guitar, and horns with the great Willie Henderson - who did the horn arrangements on my CD; plus a West Coast thing, too.

BW: You did the "Severn Soul Review" before, right?

TR: Yes, in Lucerne, Switzerland. It was great. You go up and do a few tunes and then the next singer goes up and so on, which keeps upping my game as I don't want to be too overshadowed by these other guys, then at the end of the night we do some singing together. Severn has become like a family where we are all kind of rooting for each other. Speaking of which, Darrell Nulisch has a new record coming out and I heard it and it's really cool, with great singing and wonderful harp playing.

BW: Severn seems to be developing a nice sound as a label.

TR: I think so. It's ambitious, with all they are doing, as they are writing cool Soul tunes with great horn charts and they are not doing the same old.

BW: And for more information your website is?

TR: So there you can see a little history about me, CD reviews, tour dates, as we just want to keep people informed about what all we are doing.

BW: Speaking of your history, please tell us more.

TR: I left New York City to go to school in Indiana, which was just a stones throw from Chicago, so in the early Eighties I started to hang in Chicago where there still was some great players gigging around like Big Walter, Sunnyland Slim, Billy Branch, Carl Weathersby, you know a nice mix of the new generation plus some of the older cats, too. I ventured there often during my college years to see what was going on and it drew me right in. So I got into that world and eventually moved to Chicago. Within a month of living there I was playing at eight different clubs, which is how I met a lot of people who came into my band like Dave Specter, Steve Freund, Ken Saydek, Blyther Smith, Lurie Bell, and I realized that I am a singer and I wanted to surround myself with good players. So I got the opportunity to work with a lot great entertainers who all added a different flavor and came at it at from a different angle. Blyther in particular brought a different perspective, which taught me a lot and allowed me to grow my craft as a singer and how to create a Blues show with a beginning, middle, and end, so that was my education to growing up in the Blues, my formative years.

BW: Then you did those first two CDs for Delmark?

TR: Yes, after about a decade of gigging around Chicago, Delmark signed me. Those two CDs were early experiments, but they were still kind of the template for what I am still doing. You know, the hybrid of part Soul and part Blues, trying to find my own niche.

BW: Any chance we will see the "Severn Soul Review" in the east or around the U.S.A.?

TR: We are doing some shows in July in Indianapolis then Minneapolis then Chicago, so a small Midwest tour with the horns.

BW: I would think the festival circuit would take to the "Severn Soul Review"?

TR: We ready and waiting! David Earl at Severn is really trying to make this happen, but sooner or later I am sure we will get a lot of this going, as these things always find a way to work themselves out. I look at it that if I don't get called this year I will get called next year. I did do the Chicago Blues Festival, which a lot of people consider one of the crown jewels of the Blues scene, but you can't do these same gigs every year and there is no doubt these big festivals are great for my resume. The biggest thing for me was when I got the two nominations for the Handy award for my previous recording a few years ago, as it's always is nice to be noticed by the Blues community.

Bob Putignano

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society