I Hear Some Blues Downstairs

Fenton Robinson

Alligator, 1977


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The last time we checked in on the late Chicago bluesman Fenton Robinson was in 1997, when we looked at his Alligator debut Somebody Loan Me A Dime. In that review, I noted that I wished that Robinson and his band had taken a few musical chances to break up the uniformity of the disc.

I Hear Some Blues Downstairs, Robinson’s 1977 effort, does just that… and, while it has plenty to celebrate, reminds me of the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The slow, mournful blues that permeated his previous release is still there, albeit with a slightly crisper production job. But Robinson and his crew also dare to get a little funky on three tracks that have the slightest hint of a disco beat to them. Those tracks, “Just A Little Bit,” “I Wish For You” and the blues standard “Killing Floor,” actually turn out to be some of the weaker efforts on the disc. It’s not that Robinson can’t—or shouldn’t—make the effort to put some energy into the tracks. It’s just that these particular efforts sound a little dated.

Fortunately, there’s also plenty to celebrate on this disc. Robinson’s whiskey-smooth vocals are still very much at the forefront of the music, while his staccato guitar lines are found throughout. Tracks like “Going West,” “Tell Me What’s The Reason” (an example of what a slightly more lively performance could be) and the title track all bear plenty of witness to why Robinson should have been more revered in his chosen musical genre.

Yet, it’s moments where Robinson’s guitar says the least that showcases his control and mastery of the blues. Listen to “I’m So Tired,” and right at the climax of the song, where any blues player worth their weight in guitar picks would have created a magnificent solo filled with long runs of notes, Robinson simply plays three, slightly bending the final note and holding it until the band launches into the crescendo. That, kids, is power.

Robinson would not be heard from in the record bins for seven years after the release of I Hear Some Blues Downstairs, so it’s good that, even though it’s a shade weaker than its predecessor, Robinson left behind an album that is fairly enjoyable. If all you know of Robinson is Somebody Loan Me A Dime, this one is still worth searching out.

Rating: B-

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