I am not a reviewer, nor a critic. I don’t like to criticize other’s work. It is often said about critics that they become critics because they cannot do. That leaves me right out of the critical realm, because I can and do. What I truly enjoy is the doings of others, especially when I can steer people in the right direction: to make them aware of work others are doing, and to help them learn where to obtain it. If I don’t like something, I doubt you’ll ever see it mentioned here.
Deborah Robins stole my heart on first listen in a song pull with a Utah Phillips song several years ago. She has the unique and admirable knack of making the listener, whether live or via CD, think she is singing especially to them; the world drops away and there is just you and her, and her voice, soothing, consoling, chastising, or just poking fun. This gets ones attention.
Following up on her Lone Journey CD, Deborah has worked hard to bring us materials from the folk catalog on Home Fires that we may not have heard or that she feels needs to be resurrected from obscurity. She’s got a good list on Home Fires.
- Bibble-a-La-Do (traditional)
- Look for Me in Butte (Ross/Phillips)
- Bowling Green (traditional)
- O Lord, What a Morning/Let the Light from the Lighthouse (traditional)
- Getting in the Cows (Maguire)
- I’m Going Home to Georgia (Null)
- The Great American Bum (McClintock)
- The Spinning Mills of Home (Kahn)
- Arthritis Blues (Hawes)
- Hard Times (traditional)
- Shake Sugaree (Cotten)
- The Keweenaw Lighthouse (Johnson)
- Tenting Tonight/Keep the Home Fires Burning (Kitteridge/Novello)
- When I was a Cowboy (Ledbetter)
- Because All Men Are Brothers (Glazer/Hassler)
- I’m Going Away (Cotten)
Deborah and her husband, the great Larry Hanks, together, have a huge body of folk music work that spans decades. They have recorded together, separately, and with others. Hank’s Apple Picker’s Reel is a folk music anthem. They have devoted their lives to the spread through performance and education of the uncomplicated folk music that reflected and still reflects the lives of everyday people, living out their lives in labor, sweat, and toil, or in rebellion to that, or in the hopes of ultimate deliverance from that. Robins has all types of these songs on Home Fires.
The songs about the tedium of toil amidst oppression and want are 3, 5, 8, 10, 11, and 9.
The songs about rebellion against that are 2, 3, 7, and 16.
The songs about the hopes of deliverance from that are 4, 6, 13, and 15.
Some of the songs fit in all three categories.
The others are just fun, particularly Arthritis Blues, which is about having to live with pain and oppression not inflicted by others, but as an insult to our own bodies by our own bodies, which can occur no matter where one happens to be. I know that feeling well.
My favorites: the clever and pining Look for me in Butte, the haunting Bowling Green, the funny Getting in the Cows (Lord, thank you for dairy farmers and that I am not one of them!), the lullaby I’m Going Home to Georgia, Arthritis Blues, Tenting Tonight/Keep the Home Fires Burning (Home Fires rates up there with one of the English language’s all-time greatest songs), and the pastoral Because All Men Are Brothers.
Deborah sings straight to your heart. Uncomplicated. Uncluttered. Personal. Close.
I’ve come to expect that. She does not disappoint.
The production values score high on this recording because there is only a recording. Deborah sings harmony with herself on a few over-dubs, and I think I hear another harmony voice on Look for Me in Butte, but my eyes would not allow me to find a credit. Her vocal range is such that it could also be her singing with herself. This is a great credit to recording engineer Mark Wally McClellan at The Wally Sound in Oakland, CA, for making himself completely invisible.
I give a nice tip of the hat to Meghan Merker for the exceptional design work on the CD cover.
Home Fires is available through Amazon, iTunes, and all major music outlets. It is also available from CDBaby at this link: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/deborahrobins1 Short of buying one from Deborah, herself, at one of her performances, CD Baby is the best place to get a copy.
Deborah is the real stuff. She’ll sing for you, and to you, if you’ll sit still.
©2018 Mississippi Chris Sharp
PS – #10, this Hard Times, is not the Stephen Foster song.