Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally Band - Baby, Let’s Take the Long Way Home
The merits of this release are obvious on first listen. It’s a relatively safe bet even listeners who aren’t fans of the genre will find something to like in this material. It combines some stalwart cuts from Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally’s shared songbook of Americana, but there are some original tracks here that match up well with the traditional offerings. Robinson’s Deep South roots gives her something special in her DNA for this sort of music and her presence on Baby, Let’s Take the Long Way Home’s five songs makes an enormous difference in carrying them from merely fine to something much grander and more remarkable. It isn’t common that first albums are all that remarkable, but Robinson, Nunally, and the all-star cast of collaborators surrounding them turns in quite a memorable moment with this release.
The familiarity of the singer with the band is evident on the first cut. They achieve an easy, relaxed musical balance on the album’s first song and title number. The implication of hijinks ensuing between the man and woman in the song is handled with the required amount of class and the musical touches are outstanding. Robinson and Nunally have a natural chemistry as singers that shines through. “I Hear a Southwind” has a much more pronounced lyrical quality and this is underscored by the increased presence of Pete Grant’s pedal steel playing. Grant, a veteran with experience playing alongside The Grateful Dead and Guy Clark among many others, is one of the abiding musical strengths of Baby, Let’s Take the Long Way Home, but few songs put his talents in sharper focus than this one. The fleet fingered guitar playing opening Nunally handles the bulk of the vocal duties on the song “Hillbilly Boy” and the track’s effortless uplift comes from the brightly-hued interplay between the guitar and pedal steel. The guitar work, in particularly, tackles its passages with sparkling runs that never stumble.
“Pardon Me” finds Robinson returning as the primary vocalist and this immensely likeable song gets a fine treatment here. It’s one of the album’s two covers, but Robinson and the band handle it just as adeptly as they would if the track were an original. “I’m Brilliant” is a melancholy, forlorn number with some shattering emotional touches in both the lyric and arrangement. Much of the arrangement’s burden is carried by deceptively simple, layered guitar and gives Robinson a great platform for her lyrics and vocal. “Shackled and Chained” is the album’s bluesy concession, but Robinson and Nunally’s take on the form eschews any of the Sturm and Drang that so many confuse the blues with. This is tasteful, instead, and employs all the right gravitas. The album’s final song “Mirror” is, arguably, the most personal track on the release for Robinson and she delivers a beautifully vulnerable vocal befitting its subject matter. Baby, Let’s Take the Long Way Home is truly representative of the live performing experience these two musical powerhouses have enjoyed while working with each other. It’s an entertaining release in every manner.
9 out of 10 stars