Liner notes for Terry Robb’s “ Resting Place ” include a quote from one of the recording engineers involved in the project, describing Robb as “a helluva nice kid.”
Now, ‘nice’ may be a highly desirable quality in a person, but when it comes to blues, it seems a rather dismissive description. Blues just isn’t supposed to be ‘nice.’ Down and dirty and dangerous, yes. ‘Nice,’ no …
So where does that leave Robb’s “ Resting Place ?” Well, Robb’s obviously an accomplished picker who knows his way around a fretboard, his work here both inventive and supple whether he’s on his own or backed by a sympathetic band. The recording is exemplary, with an extraordinary warmth and immediacy – the band tracks were recorded at Sun Studios, and are so clear one can detect the creaking of chairs on occasion (not at all a bad thing in this case!). And accompaniment – especially given the one-take nature of the recording – is uniformly excellent, driving and direct and devoid of extraneous filler.
So far so good. But Robb’s vocals remain pleasant when something darker is called for, as on the Doc Pomus chestnut, “ Lonely Avenue .” One could be forgiven for assuming Robb’s “ Lonely Avenue ” is just a laneway running between “ Sunshine Street ” and “ Perky Place .” His version lacks the despair the song demands – one assumes friends will drop by at any moment, with Robb’s declared loneliness quickly forgotten amid the resulting camaraderie. Despite a fine musical setting, it just doesn’t ring true. He’s a little better tackling the minor-key moodiness of “Louise,” which borrows heavily from “The Thrill Is Gone,” but sounds utterly lost on relatively simple fare like “Fare Thee Well Blues.”
The same is true of “My Mind Is Trying To Leave Me. ” Robb tears off some ferocious licks on his acoustic guitar, but his unrelentingly pleasant delivery doesn’t even approach the sardonic wit inherent in Percy Mayfield's lyrics.
And so it goes. Robb can play heck out of an acoustic guitar, and his instrumentals – roughly half the disc, to be fair – are top-notch. But the vocals, while inoffensive, come across too much like ‘blues lite,’ marring what might otherwise be an excellent outing.
If it’s a respite from the blues you’re after, rather than an exploration or celebration of the raw and the real, Robb’s “ Resting Place ” is a pleasant interlude indeed. And even blues fans need something mellower on occasion. But if Robb is looking for legitimacy as a bluesman, he needs to select his material wisely to ensure he can pull off the vocals as well as he handles guitar parts.
Nice, but not quite essential …