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Music Review: Sharon Robinson – Everybody Knows

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Having established herself as a versatile songwriter, vocalist, and producer with a roster of artists – most notably Leonard Cohen, with whom she’s collaborated for three decades and is currently on tour – Sharon Robinson could have just as well maintained a successful music career behind the scenes. Thankfully, she had other ideas.

On her debut album, Everybody Knows, Robinson draws on the eclectic dimensions of her craft as well as on the breadth of her talent, summoning fractions of jazz and soul into a sound that is bound by neither. Through seven originals and three cuts previously co-written with Cohen (including the title track), she is at turns transportive and sensuously prescient, her smoky voice recalling shades of Sade while achieving an aura all her own.

Amid ethereal soundscapes and muted, electronica-based arrangements, Robinson strikes an ambient tone that is well suited to the contemplative themes she explores. From the empathetic resonance of “Party For The Lonely” – its ironic refrain, “I think we should go,” reverberating in rhythm – to the soulful complexions of “Invisible Tattoo” and “The High Road,” she sings with equal conviction and wisdom. On certain songs, as on “Forever In A Kiss” and “Secondhand,” she creates a contrasted dynamic of live and synthesized instruments – like a piano progression set atop a subtle drum loop – further underscoring the album’s sophisticated allure.

Lest anyone question whether Robinson is capitalizing on Leonard Cohen’s stature and present renaissance of sorts, consider that her musicality and production skills have informed some of his most celebrated works. And in the realm of lyrics – which she delves into quite deeply here – any semblance to Cohen’s pensive expressions isn’t one of imitation, but rather of a mutual ethic for rendering penetrating, visceral insights.

Even on the songs co-written with Cohen – particularly “Alexandra Leaving,” on which she affects a more intimate vibe than the original – Robinson steers them into her own style, which in turn inspire altogether separate appreciation.

In fact, inspiring distinctive appreciation is what Sharon Robinson so exceptionally achieves with Everybody Knows, the result of having harnessed her creative energy and sensibilities to yield her own voice.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Joan Armatrading, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • Sandra ~Jaz

    Hat’s off to Donald Gibson for the way in which he described the varied tapestry that encapsulates this multi-dimentional artist. Sharon Robinson has the ability to take the listener on a musical ride, that builds (like a drum-roll in your soul). She can write, she can sing and she is a sheer delight to one’s emotions as she sings. Whether she is singing back up or lead, it is worth taking the time to close your eyes and let her ‘take you away’ for a musical ride. Think about that, when you realize that I just recently discovered this sparkling gem. I wish her all the best.

  • James Palmer

    Highly intelligent songs,beautifully crafted and sung,this IS the album of the year.Better still the more it is heard the more it reveals how very original it is.Well done Sharon Robinson,you’ve produced a modern classic.

  • Dirk Prophet

    I look forward to her next album.