Back last year when I reviewed singer-songwriter Gregg Robins first album Everything That Matters, I was very impressed with his simple, often infectious melodies and somewhat less so with his lyrics, which at times seemed a tad pretentious. Now comes Snowing in April, a new album of demo songs available free on the singer’s website. Robins is still writing beautiful melodies, but this time, at least with most of the tunes, he has managed to shed the pretention. And when he does, he writes some really nice songs.
In a podcast interview with Paul Clayton on Totalpicture Radio, Robbins explains that the album was meant as a change of pace from the earlier release. The songs were more fun, more playful. They were meant to be “simple songs that stand on their own feet.” He wasn’t interested in elaborate production values—a little guitar, some saxophone, a little help with the vocals on a couple of tracks, but by and large he let the music speak for itself. He had taken a songwriting course at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, he tells us, and it looks like one of the lessons he came away with is that less is more.
There are a total of eight songs on the album, some fun tunes, some intensely personal, but all served up in a memorable melodic feast. The album begins with snow in Moscow, Robin’s home base, and moves to sun and fun in the tropics with the upbeat “Sanibel” and, on a more subdued note, “Paradise.” Then there are the more reflective, thoughtful songs. “The Middle of the Show,” written as Robins reaches the age of 47, shows him coming to terms with where he is the middle of life. “Take Those Empty Words” talks about the need to follow your bliss in spite of what others may tell you.
“Believe” is a bonus track, where Robins is joined by his 15-year-old daughter Casey, written after reconnecting with his children after three years. Then there are less intense but still personal songs, like “Where Were You” and “How Lucky.” The first is a duet with Remy Sepetoski that he says evokes the Everly Brothers. It talks about finding one’s soul mate after missing each other over the years. It has a nostalgic vibe and some nice harmony. “How Lucky” finds a bright side even in bad health.
If, as Robins indicates, this album represents the new direction his music is taking, it is the right direction. Beautiful melodies, unpretentious but sincere lyrics, neither taking a back seat to artifice. This is a sure-fire recipe for success.