It’s been quite an interesting few years for session man Ric Robertson. After moving to New Orleans and playing everything from fiddle, piano, drums, bass, and guitar with everyone from Cajun, zydeco, and brass bands, Robertson is finally able to release his debut record, The Fool and The Friend (Blue Hens Music). He’s accompanied by a slew of musicians: Nicholas Falk (vocals, drums), Dave Speranza (bass), Eddie Barbash (horns), Roy Williams (vocals, piano, guitar), Duncan Wickel (fiddle), John Graboff (pedal steel), Daniel Clarke (organ), Dori Freeman & Phoebe Hunt (vocals), and Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers (slide guitar).
As you’ll hear upon listening, The Fool and the Friend is most definitely a break up record (or if you need to hear it straight from the source, Robertson confirms it in this interview). It leads off with “The Fool,” chronicling what appears to have been an unexpected split; hindsight is 20/20, though, as Robertson hints at some sort of clarity and acceptance, albeit in somewhat comical fashion (“Too much luck will make you cold / Breaking hearts will make you cruel / Ain’t it good to play the fool?”). The record then goes through the various stages Robertson presumably went through—disbelief in “Bullet,” longing in “Luck,” and eventually ending with “The Friend” and “One Fan.” The former is more Robertson wrestling with himself more than “the friend,” while the latter is a punny take on his old lover and a ceiling fan (“I’ve got only one fan in the room / But I used to have two”).
The album is also buoyed by three covers, highlighted by Dave Egan’s “Hallelujah, I’m a Dreamer,” and Jerry Reed’s “A Thing Called Love.” Robertson isn’t afraid to show how the move to NOLA continues to shape his craft, especially on the swanky, laid back shuffle of “Hallelujah”(brass section in tow), or the uplifting “Windex Pete,” who reminds Roberts “how simple life can be” as Pete rolls down Dumaine Street, washboard in hand.
Throughout it all, Robertson shows the many colors of his work; it’s hard to strictly define this as an “Americana” record, whatever that means. It’s fitting that his vocal delivery evokes Paul Simon or a more roots-y Ezra Koenig (of Vampire Weekend) timbre, as the album jumps from one shade to the next, much like some of the work in Simon and Vampire Weekend’s catalog. Get your copy, here. http://www.ricrobertsonmusic.com/