In February (2015) Montreal-based singer-songwriter Jim Robinson launches his 7th CD “Still In The Game” at the Café Mariposa in Montreal - a series of 15 songs recorded simply, live off the floor with the stories themselves placed front and centre. 

 Stylistically the new songs once again fall into the singer-songwriter /contemporary folk category mixing folk, country, blues, pop and rock. “This time I decided to try to keep things simpler than last time. When I played the songs for my most trusted allies they agreed that simple would work and that was good enough for me.” 

 From the opening harmonica strains of the rockabilly Savannah (the girl who had a thing for garbage collectors) to the calypso swing of Out Of My Mind (about the illusion that sooner or later we’re going to find the perfect lover) to the cool groove of Me and the Econoline (about the deeply personal relationship that exists between a musician and his van), Jim goes on to sing about the complexities of romantic relationships when ideals are shattered, the inevitable impossibility of always walking the straight and narrow, and the sometimes stressful first meeting with one’s potential in-laws. He reminds us that as the infrastructure breaks down (Movin’ Again), the rich get richer, the poor poorer and the middle class gets squeezed out we find ourselves in a Mother of a Jam. And yet there’s hope: life is both tragedy and comedy and some songs (Your Dog My Cat, Still in the Game) remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. 

  Maybe that idea comes at least in part from Robinson’s having explored other territory. Going back to 2003, “Heading South” is a set about love, loss, doubt, hope and courage, drawn from life (and a lifetime's worth) of musical influences and exploration. “After the many years of writing songs that turned out to be my preparation and training as a songwriter this 1st CD was a kind of dream come true for me.”   With ”Working In The Dark (2005)” Jim’s 2nd CD, we have here a very different more reflective, hypnotic series of 11 soundscapes that was well described by a musician friend as “a grown-up piece of business....very late-night and intensely personal... just right for its slightly jazzy touch.”  If “Working in the Dark” is a look inward, “All The Way Home” (2006) takes the listener back out into the world again. “I think I was just relieved not to be working in the dark for a change, to be enjoying the light, the whimsical, the spirited, a kind of re-birth and maybe a preparation for revisiting my roots on the CD that would come next.”   And that's the time and place “The Country Blues Collection” (2008) seems to have come from - the familiar song forms and harmonies Jim heard and learned to play during his childhood in rural Quebec. Many of the songs have the feel of two guys just sitting around the kitchen singing and playing guitar.  The mix of people and characters that Robinson writes about on his 5th CD “No Turning Back“ (2010) may be obsessive, flawed, weak, struggling, young, old or even dying. But his way of focusing on their particular strengths and imagination leaves one with renewed respect for the power of human resilience. When he sings about finding solace in nature, paying tribute to the power of passion, the need to risk to stay in the game, there’s a sense that no matter how hard the rain falls there’s “No Turning Back.” “This project was something of a turning point for me, the first CD I recorded in the studio live with a band.”  “I started writing the songs for “Sounds Like Down Home” (2013) after releasing “Heading South” but it foundered for lack of sufficient material - only to go underground and resurface 10 years later.” The songs on this album celebrate not only some of the vanishing traditions of the rural life of Jim’s childhood but the ways in which his music blends the past with the present imbuing the updated version with a renewed vitality.

 

Maybe that idea comes at least in part from Robinson’s having explored other territory. Going back to 2003, “Heading South” is a set about love, loss, doubt, hope and courage, drawn from life (and a lifetime's worth) of musical influences and exploration. “After the many years of writing songs that turned out to be my preparation and training as a songwriter this 1st CD was a kind of dream come true for me.” 

 With ”Working In The Dark (2005)” Jim’s 2nd CD, we have here a very different more reflective, hypnotic series of 11 soundscapes that was well described by a musician friend as a grown-up piece of business....very late-night and intensely personal... just right for its slightly jazzy touch.”

 If “Working in the Dark” is a look inward, “All The Way Home” (2006) takes the listener back out into the world again. “I think I was just relieved not to be working in the dark for a change, to be enjoying the light, the whimsical, the spirited, a kind of re-birth and maybe a preparation for revisiting my roots on the CD that would come next.” 

 And that's the time and place “The Country Blues Collection” (2008) seems to have come from - the familiar song forms and harmonies Jim heard and learned to play during his childhood in rural Quebec. Many of the songs have the feel of two guys just sitting around the kitchen singing and playing guitar.

 The mix of people and characters that Robinson writes about on his 5th CD “No Turning Back“ (2010) may be obsessive, flawed, weak, struggling, young, old or even dying. But his way of focusing on their particular strengths and imagination leaves one with renewed respect for the power of human resilience. When he sings about finding solace in nature, paying tribute to the power of passion, the need to risk to stay in the game, there’s a sense that no matter how hard the rain falls there’s “No Turning Back.” “This project was something of a turning point for me, the first CD I recorded in the studio live with a band.”

 “I started writing the songs for “Sounds Like Down Home (2013) after releasing “Heading South” but it foundered for lack of sufficient material - only to go underground and resurface 10 years later.” The songs on this album celebrate not only some of the vanishing traditions of the rural life of Jim’s childhood but the ways in which his music blends the past with the present imbuing the updated version with a renewed vitality.

  To sum up: “I’ve worked harder and longer at this songwriting business than I’ve worked at any other job in my life. Growing up on a working farm and later becoming a long distance runner probably gave me a taste of the discipline demanded of a daily writing practice.” Songs, once written though, are meant to be shared. So, while Jim’s focus during the 12 years since his first release has been on songwriting and recording, he has also continued to perform solo gigs, open for others, do radio interviews, fundraisers, open stages and participate regularly in songwriting circles in Montreal and Ottawa.   Robinson is quick to acknowledge his indebtedness to his early musical influences as well as the help and support he’s had along the way, firstly from his longtime life and musical partner Susan Fowler. “ Lyrically and musically Susan has been my go-to person for her extraordinary ability to get at the heart of matters, asking me the right questions - the ones I may not like but need to hear and find invaluable. Secondly from Jason Lang who has produced or co-produced all 7 of my CDs. He has been my musical ally whose imagination, energy and enthusiasm, and exceptional musical and vocal skills have variously contributed to the particular arrangements each song seemed to call for.”   “What keeps me going is the nature and possibility of relationship with others that music and songs provide. It’s kind of mysterious,” Jim observes, “personally I can be discouraged, tired, angry, afraid, embarrassed, lonely and pick up my guitar and start singing and something good happens, regardless of whether the song I play is sad, upbeat or ironic.” Which brings us back to his latest release: “Sometimes it seems like the best thing I can do for myself when faced with one of life’s awkward or painful situations is to try to find the humour in it and that’s what I’ve tried to do and share in “Still in the Game,” this latest collection.”  

 

To sum up: “I’ve worked harder and longer at this songwriting business than I’ve worked at any other job in my life. Growing up on a working farm and later becoming a long distance runner probably gave me a taste of the discipline demanded of a daily writing practice.” Songs, once written though, are meant to be shared. So, while Jim’s focus during the 12 years since his first release has been on songwriting and recording, he has also continued to perform solo gigs, open for others, do radio interviews, fundraisers, open stages and participate regularly in songwriting circles in Montreal and Ottawa. 

 Robinson is quick to acknowledge his indebtedness to his early musical influences as well as the help and support he’s had along the way, firstly from his longtime life and musical partner Susan Fowler. “ Lyrically and musically Susan has been my go-to person for her extraordinary ability to get at the heart of matters, asking me the right questions - the ones I may not like but need to hear and find invaluable. Secondly from Jason Lang who has produced or co-produced all 7 of my CDs. He has been my musical ally whose imagination, energy and enthusiasm, and exceptional musical and vocal skills have variously contributed to the particular arrangements each song seemed to call for.” 

 “What keeps me going is the nature and possibility of relationship with others that music and songs provide. It’s kind of mysterious,” Jim observes, “personally I can be discouraged, tired, angry, afraid, embarrassed, lonely and pick up my guitar and start singing and something good happens, regardless of whether the song I play is sad, upbeat or ironic.” Which brings us back to his latest release: “Sometimes it seems like the best thing I can do for myself when faced with one of life’s awkward or painful situations is to try to find the humour in it and that’s what I’ve tried to do and share in “Still in the Game,” this latest collection.”