Rob Drabkin | On These Heavy Feet
album review by John Powell
Denver, Colorado-born Rob Drabkin’s 2009 release On These Heavy Feet recently found its way to Angelica, and is worth noting as the acoustic guitar playing poet is not only here to stay, but is also gaining momentum as one of those guys that is more than a good musician. He’s a good person, resonating in his demeanor and recorded work, laid out here with beautiful simplicity.
An immediate comparison is Dave Matthews, only the softer version of Dave, the one invested in lyricism and making things sound beautiful, as opposed to large. From start to finish, On These Heavy Feet is laden with quickly strummed chord progressions and grandiose drumming tacked down to melody by bass and Rob’s voice, a warbling but better-than-average soulful set of pipes.
After an out-of-place instrumental intro, (honestly, it may be an intro, but not to this album), the guitar enters like a sandy beach caught up in a warm breeze. “Sometimes we think driftingly,” Rob sings, and then proceeds to lift up with abstract, partially connected bits of a day. “I’ll just sit/and retreat,” he sings, but not before the band comes in, including cello, viola, and violin, weaving a slow whirl.
“A Small Time” may be hard to digest for those that stay away from solo saxophone pattering, but with the horn, side by side with a sleek melody, Rob paints a slowly building hopeful song. “There are times I feel broken,” he sings, “Like an old clock/that ticks but can’t tell the time.” He adds, “That’s only in my mind.”
A track for all Time is “She Comes and Goes”, a song so sincere and sweet, without any tackiness, that if it hit the radio it would be requested daily. The melody, quick words with a boisterous chorus, warms like a rising sun. “The next thing I remember/it was a cold and dark December/but all the lights around you seemed to glow.” It’s part love song, part nostalgia, but in its somewhat narrative structure, without too much detail bogging it down, “She Comes and Goes” is pop infused with truth, and also innocence.
“Little Steps”, propelled furiously by organ, has a similar affect, but this time more funky. The chorus- actually a breakdown in instrumentation- is a nice turn of the ordinary. “Change places for faces,” Rob sings, “Cause we’ve got all the time now.”
Rob’s a little longwinded. After a time, the songs are saying the same things in different ways, but not that different. He has an affinity for jazz, lacing songs with sax (played by his father), but he also touches on that good ole’ folk rock, and when he does, those are the high points. He’s come far from this album, but I recommend it to anyone that wants to start with his start, because likely you’ll want to go wherever he’s going, as long as he tightens the reigns and utilizes less for more, which he pulls off like a magic trick.
Bottom line: A mix of folk and rock from a really good guitar player making pretty music.