‘Foothills’ from Robbie Bankes - stunningly crafted, poetic lyrics, emotion-rich, evocative vocals

(June 11, 2017)

There are albums with the immediacy of innovation and the longevity of tradition. With some albums, from first hearing you know you’re listening to something exceptional. And certain albums get under your skin and stay there. ‘Foothills’ from Calgary born and Norway-based Robbie Bankes qualifies on all counts. The pure simplicity of stunningly crafted, poetic lyrics, Foothillsemotion-rich, evocative vocals and deceptively simple yet precise guitar, fiddle and banjo combine to make ‘Foothills’ an album with presence.

Nominations such as Young Performer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, are little or no surprise, singer songwriters of this calibre find recognition wherever they go and that’s only justice. The fact that this is Banke’s debut album is hard to believe ... maturity of delivery, evident respect for tradition and obvious ability to create songs abundant with hooks and lyrics flush with meaning ... yet believe it you will because when ‘Foothills’ opens you will be held until the last word and note. Opening with a fresh look at tradition with the many-versioned ‘Geordie’, he moves swiftly into originals like the talking-lyrics and telling narrative of ‘Alice’ and the supremely catchy hooks and riveting lyrics of ‘February Snow’ before returning to tradition with ‘The Unquiet Grave’. His composition ‘Ivan, Ivan’ arrives with a powerful poignancy as does the mournful rite of passage in ‘Magpies’ with its wish to be “... a little older and a little wiser I am sure that I would know...” before the intense honesty of ‘Charlie’s’ sweeps you into its presence.

The more you listen, the more it’s obvious that Banke’s has a future as a songwriter that goes way beyond promising as it heads for guaranteed.

Playing on ‘Foothills’, which releases on 14th June, are Robbie Banks (vocals, guitar, banjo) Charlie Hase (pedal steel, Weisseborn) Melissa McWilliams (drums) Mark Grosjean (upright and electric bass) and Pam Woodall (vocals).


Review: Tim Carroll

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