It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet Jimmie Lee Robinson in 1998 when I made my pilgrimage to Chicago, partly to see the legendary Maxwell Street. Robinson had a new CD out on his own Amina label at that time, and has since recorded two CDs for Analogue Productions who specialize in turning out quality blues recordings. Robinson's previous album ("Remember Me") won plaudits from the critics when it came out, and "...All My Life" carries on the good work.
The album opens in a back porch vein, with Robinson casually picking and singing his way through "Forty Days and Forty Nights" accompanied by Madison Slim on harp (and elsewhere by Jimmie D. Lane on guitar too). Robinson may have played alongside many of the legends during the development of the post-war Chicago sound, but he prefers these days to play in a relaxed more folk-blues oriented style that harks back to the pre-war era. There is a deep feeling of honesty and sincerity permeating "...All My Life"; every track is delivered in a heartfelt manner.
Most of the tracks here are covers, but there is a fair chance that you will never have heard the likes of the aforementioned "Forty Days...," "I'm Ready," and "What A Wonderful World" done the way that Robinson does them. The songs are still recognizable, it is just that they the electric trimmings are stripped away to get at the underlying blues feeling. The two Robinson originals "The Girl I Love" and "All My Life" both fit into this minimalist style too.
The choice of the material naturally reflects Robinson's Chicago roots. Among the tracks are songs from the repertoires of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Rogers and J.B. Lenoir. It is therefore a bit of a surprise that the album ends with a song that was made famous by Louis Armstrong: "What A Wonderful World." The way Robinson delivers it, it is hard to believe that it was not originally written as a blues tune. And, just like Armstrong's version, it makes you heave a sigh at the end.
"...All My Life" is Jimmie Lee Robinson doing what he does best. He seems to have found his ideal recording home at APO (www.analogueproductions.com), where his acoustic folk-blues style receives sympathetic treatment. There is nothing flashy about "...All My Life," it is just good, clean, honest, no-nonsense blues delivered with real feeling.
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