When reviewing Larry Murante's marvelous Point of Entry (here), I mentioned Robyn Landis' collaboration with him on a couple of songs. Well, he's here as well, singing and playing guitar, and I can, after hearing Many Moons, very easily see why he chose her to work with...and vice versa.
Landis sings with a high, clear, laconically sweet voice informing the listener of the bittersweet nature of her work well before the lyrics are digested and pondered. I'm constantly reminded of a high plains vibe when listening to her material, all of it uncomplicated but beautifully melodic, the kind of easy tempos and sonorities one can fall readily into, happy to lay back and gently reminisce on the universality of living the human life.
Landis' guitar work is as gauzily soporific as her singing, spiced with great harmonica interludes by Mark Graham, here not as a blues instrument but instead harkening back to the days of Twain and his white picket fences, dirt roads, and rural sentiments. Likewise, Cary Black is the constant bassist, and he oscillates between pointillistic expression and gentle rhythmic undercurrents, often supplying the entire rhythm section (only 3 cuts carry percussion) and a large part of the deceptively wide baseline. Half the tracks further incorporate Jami Sieber's cello work in lazy skyblown complements to Landis' earthier presence.
Every cut here is a keeper, and Landis obviously either lavished a good deal of time on the arrangements or has a natural gift for it, probably both. Like David Wilcox, her work is rich with sympathy for human frailty and the thousand and one disappointments the flesh is heir to. Guitars and voices dominate the release but not roughly at all. In fact, the layering is so quietly hypnotic that you hardly notice anything but the tapestry of laving tones drifting whisperingly in the ear. Even given the longing and mysteries pervading every minute of the dozen cuts (housed in gorgeous tri-fold packaging with full credits, notes, and lyric booklet), this is a very refreshing CD and stays so each time it's broached. Hard to believe it's her debut solo release, but that's indeed the case—of course, the fact that she has a list of awards and recognitions as long as your arm explains a lot of that. Robyn Landis, I'm quite sure, waited until her art was fully matured and, man, does it ever show.
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Mark S. Tucker
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Robyn Landis: Press
Picture this: the wind blows a whirling dust devil across the broad open plain as the young woman stands outside of the rustic cabin and gazes with weary, strained eyes far into the empty distance. The first spare verse of Jamison Brown, co-written with David Zink, paints a clearly defined opening scene in just ten carefully selected words. This is an admirable skill for a song writer to possess and Robyn Landis seems to do it so well through out her new CD titled Many Moons, whether it be in her co-writing or solo compositions. Ms. Landis' smooth vocals caress the sensitive poetry and bittersweet sorrow...The studio work of every musician featured is exquisite...she nails it beautifully with her tender sweet voice. If it's possible to write at the cellular level, Robyn Landis does just that... With each literary illustration, the landscape blurs by around another winding curve and bump in the road; another set of headlights grow then disappear in a flash, and yet a ghostly image remains. Ah yes, she can put you behind the wheel with her cohesive words and melody...Landis has been turning heads at many songwriters' contests and festivals and as a result has chocked up her share of nominations and awards. Listening to the content and production quality of Many Moons, there is no doubt as to why. Landis has a way of articulating so many of life's experiences along with a certain sense of community from a poet's perspective...Many Moons is a brightly polished piece of work that will capture and carry you gently along on an intricate narrative adventure; an exceptional release.
- Nancy Vivolo for Victory Review
"While Trees Fall is Landis' political ecological statement that comes off ten times better than some of the current attempts...subtle and indicting lyrics."
...smooth vocals, like an earthy Laurie Lewis...right-on bass from the fabulous Cary Black, lively fiddle from Paul Elliot and more...a relax-in-your-chair big ol’ dose of straight-ahead folk... Landis has won a lot of songwriting awards, and it’s easy to see why. She’s great at taking a moment in time and using it to convey an emotion so strong that everyone listening will nod their heads, remembering a time in their own lives when they felt the same. Her promo material says she’s been compared to Dar Williams, but I don’t see that in her writing. Dar’s writing is more philosophical, and while there’s a hint of that in Robyn’s work, her writing is more descriptive, like a good short story... “Winter Blues” opens the disc, a leaping fiddle leading the way, the upbeat arrangement a contrast to the melancholy lyrics... There’s an ache in Robyn’s voice in “Say Goodbye” that would tell you the story even if you weren’t listening closely to the words (but you should). An acoustic guitar, simple bass, violin and vocals wrap lovingly around the melody. Beautiful...The standout cut is “While Trees Fall,” a statement about our planet and what we’re doing to it. She implores: They want to get into heaven through the eye of a needle Let me in before the ones in suits can even try Can I be an angel so I can ask some questions before I let ‘em by ... Amen, sister, amen.
"The opening line of While Trees Fall hits you over the head and sends your brain swirling and waiting on the next lyric. It gives you chills...It’s a philosophical attack on corporate America and its use of media manipulation, lies, and pursuit of financial gain at all costs...transports you back to the time when folk songs and the stories that fueled them were the mainstream norm and kept droves of people packed in coffeehouses in complete silence listening to every word in the story, so as to not miss any profound insights or endearing thoughts."
"While Trees Fall is very straightforward and takes a shot at leaders who are aiming for heaven, but might not get there if this songwriter beats them there first. Robyn Landis is able to inject a little humor to a very serious subject: 'They never take my calls / They haven't got the balls / They just have lies is all / while trees fall and fall and fall.' Finally, a song that says what it means, performed by a singer who appears to mean what she says."
"For those of us who've been already been enjoying Short and Sweet at festivals and concerts, here's what we've been waiting for: a beautiful collection of their original songs. The studio work is excellent, and at the same time, it sounds just like their live performances: their shiny-smooth vocal blend, emotional impact, and really cool instrumental arrangements. The songs cover a big range of feeling, from the inward and personal to the intense and outspoken political. Some songs are quite contemporary, and a few--like "Calico Creek"--sound like they could've been written one hundred years ago. What a treat it is to finally have them on CD."
Robyn Landis is a terrific singer and songwriter, and all around responsible and decent person. Just give her music a listen and you will see what I mean. Head, heart and guts all wrapped up in a beautiful voice and guitar.
I first heard Robyn Landis at our Tucson Folk Festival, where she's been invited to play for the past 7 years. After the first year, I made it a point to catch her set each year after. After the third time I heard her I was completely won over by her musicianship and intelligent lyric writing.
So we exchanged CDs that year. And I immediately fell in love with her latest release Many Moons, especially her song Leave You Behind. Not only did Robyn write (or co-write) all the songs, she also co-produced the CD and was responsible for art work and design as well. It was a beautiful and impressive piece of work overall.
When Robyn first moved to Tucson, I invited her to share a house concert with my Band BK Special, and joined her on several of her songs including Leave You Behind.
I've been a musician all my life, and I've achieved some success. I toured and recorded with Linda Ronstadt as a member of The Stone Poneys, and also toured with folk music legend Doc Watson. I ran one of the premier acoustic music venues in the country, McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, for 7 years. I booked acts like Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Tom Waits, Chet Atkins and the rock band Little Feat. So I feel confident in my ability to evaluate musical talent.
I think Robyn is one of the most intelligent songwriters on the scene today, a thoroughly professional musician, and I remain her committed fan.
August, 2012 - "I have been lucky to choose great artists–-all hits no misses. Robyn Landis was proof of my good fortune. Once again 28 folks went home smiling and thanking me for inviting them and hosting another wonderful artist. Robyn is the real thing, honest, incredibly smart, a voice that gives me goose bumps and tears all together, and she's drop dead beautiful. Let's do it again, Robyn."
(J. Borger--Concerts on the Lake, Allyn, WA)