Robin Trower releases new CD, What Lies Beneath
Robin Trower will perform at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe Saturday night. The guitarist has released a new CD, What Lies Beneath.
At this point in his career, Robin Trower wants to explore recording music that interests him.
That's what led the British guitarist to create his latest disc, What Lies Beneath.
While Trower's bluesy guitar work is very much evident on the new album, he also decided to sing the vocals himself.
"It was definitely something I felt I had to do," said Trower in a phone interview while on his latest tour, which includes a stop at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Saturday night.
Normally, Trower concentrates on playing his Fender Stratocaster and lets others handle the singing, such as James Dewar, who did it during Trower's Bridge of Sighs zenith in the 1970s, or former Cream bassist Jack Bruce, who teamed with Trower for a record, Seven Moons, and a tour earlier this year.
"The key thing is, I was determined to end up with the material feeling like it did when I was writing it," said Trower. "I didn't want to lose sight of what I originally created.
"It has an overall feeling, a vibe to it, because I do the vocals in the same phase as the music. Having an outside singer would have been disruptive to the vibe. I felt very comfortable with it when I was writing the songs, and I made sure the keys were comfortable for me to sing."
Trower, at 64, continues to perform the music that made him famous as a solo act after he left Procol Harum in 1972. "Most of the people who come to see me want to hear the music I did in the 70s," he admitted.
About 12 years ago, however, Trower and his manager Derek Sutton began their own label as an outlet for Robin's recorded output, allowing him creative freedom without the commercial restraints often associated with major record companies.
"At this time, I am determined that every album in the future would be something different," he related. "I just didn't want to go around the same old wheel. These are all things I'm passionate about."
Trower is noted for his work in the power trio format, and while guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Albert King served as musical influences, he suggested his early interests were more varied.
"I started out being very keen on rock and roll in the 50s, but then I heard B.B. King and James Brown, and I listened to a lot of rhythm and blues," he said. "That changed my direction quite a bit."
Working with Jack Bruce, which Trower did back in the 80s on albums such as BLT and Truce, was also rewarding, although the two of them hadn't taken the opportunity to share the concert stage until this year.
"I had never performed live with Jack before, so it was quite an enjoyable time," Trower related. "It was unfinished business, something I always wanted to do."
What Lies Beneath was recorded and produced by Livingston Brown, who also played bass on the album. The 11 tracks have a seamless flow to them. "Part of the reason for that is Livvy and I are so comfortable working together," he explained.
In addition to Trower's vocals, the album also includes the use of strings, another change for him.
"That's what I was set on achieving with these songs. I'd never done that before, so it was something new to me," he mentioned. "If the songs needed augmenting, I wanted to do what I could do to make it as good as it can be."
One standout track is "Once the Spell is Broken", a ballad with a dreamlike quality to it.
"I wrote it for a film about five years ago, and I decided to rearrange it, and that completely changed the vibe," Trower remarked.
The album was recorded in bits and pieces over a nine month period, although the actual studio time amounted to just a few weeks. "It's definitely a snapshot of where I was musically at the time," he said.
The album does have Trower's stamp on it. "Some pieces couldn't be by anybody else," he commented. "The opening instrumental ("Wish You Were Mine") is unique. There's nothing else like it."
While pleased with his new album, Trower said there is not a lot of room for new material in his concert setlist.
"It's fun to play the instrumental, but there is so much to choose from," he noted. "While the setlist on this tour is different from last year, once you get one that works great, you tend to stick with it."
Trower's touring band remains the same as from his March, 2008 appearance at The Peak and includes Davey Pattison on vocals, with Glenn Letsch on bass and Pete Thompson on drums.
"This is our third year with this particular group, but I've played with them all at one time or another in the 80s," he said. "The more you play together, the more it becomes a natural thing you don't have to think about."
Trower still enjoys performing his old songs live, so he can have the best of both worlds, on stage and in the studio.
"I've been blessed with a great gift of creativity and a love for playing the guitar. That keeps the fires burning," he added.
Robin Trower will perform at Penn's Peak Saturday night, Oct. 3. The opening act is Steve Brosky and Jimmy Meyer. Doors open at 6 p.m. with show time at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 in advance and $32 the day of the show for general admission seating. Tickets are available online through www.ticketmaster.com, at Ticketmaster outlets, at the Penn's Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant. For more information, call (866) 605-PEAK.