There are few things more inspiring than following your dreams. In the case of California musician Nell Robinson, her dreams started at age 45. After 30 years of singing in the car to herself, the Alabama-raised singer-songwriter finally stepped onto the stage and now, five years removed from that watershed moment, she has released On the Brooklyn Road, an engaging and homespun collection of 12 bluegrass and country gems.
Though a small chunk of the disc are originals, Robinson tackles a slew of covers, including Richard Brandenburg’s “Mayflies,” Loretta Lynn’s “I”m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light,” the timeless “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” Albert Brumley’s “Turn Your Radio On,” Jim Scott’s “The Last Old Shovel,” and the traditional “Sweet Sunny South.” Added onto the collection are three extras recorded with Robinson’s friend Cary Sheldon, including the traditional yarn “Crawdad Song,” and J.E. Mainer’s “Big Ball in Texas.”
From a sonic standpoint, On the Brooklyn Road is a fine disc. Robinson has an inviting and amiable voice and her backing band are certainly confident in what they do. The arrangements are fine and some of the songs are even worth repeat listens –––– her version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” -––– springs to mind. But what sets apart On The Brooklyn Road from the rest of the pack is Robinson’s dedication to her family and their love of music. Throughout the 12-song collection are various interviews with family members and a CD booklet that serves to celebrate both Robinson’s family and her Alabama upbringing.
In an era when digital downloads and YouTube videos are the hallmarks of commercial success, it’s nice to see an under-the-radar artist putting so much of her heart and soul, not only into her music, but also the liner notes.
Final word: On the Brooklyn Road is highly recommended and definitely worth the money.