Real Street on Severn Records, is the latest soul-blues album from eight-time Blues Music Award-nominated singer/harmonica player Tad Robinson. Produced by Robinson and recorded by Scott Bomar at Electraphonic Recording, the new disc showcases his soul-drenched vocals and harmonica work backed by the legendary Hi Rhythm Section of Charles Hodges – Hammond organ; Leroy Hodges – bass; and Howard Grimes – drums. They are augmented by Joe Restivo – guitar; Kevin Anker – Wurlitzer electric piano; Marc Franklin – trumpet; Kirk Smothers – sax; and Devin B. Thompson – background vocals.
For the recording of Real Street, Robinson traveled to the birthplace of Southern soul, Memphis, Tennessee, and the results are ten glorious tracks of blues-infused and passionate soul music. Throughout six originals and four reimagined covers, Robinson’s singing has never been so focused and fluent in the language of the blues and his subtle harmonica playing adds just the right spice to the mix.
“The Hi-Rhythm Section guys – Howard Grimes, Charles Hodges and Leroy Hodges – brought such wisdom, grace and solidarity to my session,” Tad Robinson says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better vibe in terms of how we all approached playing together. I’m forever grateful.”
Robinson’s vocals and harmonica weave seamlessly into the grooves set down by the band, evoking the days of such soul giants as O.V. Wright and Syl Johnson, both of whom enjoyed some of their best-remembered recordings working with the Hi Rhythm Section. His ability to “soul-ify” such pop songs as “You Got It” and “Make It With You” recall the skill that Al Green exemplified during his glory years in taking a pop standard (such as “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”) and crafting it into a soul classic.
From the ebullient shuffle, opener, “Changes,” to the poignant immediacy of George Jackson’s ballad, “Search Your Heart,” each song is a showpiece with the Memphis groove-makers’ interlocking parts evoking a timeless Southern soul-blues landscape made new again.
Robinson croons the wry, self-deprecating account of the departure of his bored lover in “Full Grown Woman,” gets gritty and gospel-soulful on the wistful and radio-friendly, “Love In The Neighborhood” and riffs and weaves his way through his joyful reworking of Roy Orbison’s, “You Got It.”
The Memphis veterans lay down a beautiful understated backing for Robinson’s story-telling on Real Street, plucking just the right riff, chord change and color out of the Memphis air, bearing witness to their rarified status as architects of the Southern soul sound.
Real Street is an earthy, straight-from-the-gut-to-the-heart collection that fans of soul and blues music will cherish.