Robby Hecht is as gentle a singer-songwriter as I can think of on the
Americana scene. His dedication to producing work of a precise and
careful beauty puts him on an uncompromising path that will always limit
his audience to those who have the patience to engage with him – but
then, once engaged, they’re likely to become dedicated to his sweet
poet’s voice. His songs tend to shimmer gently in the light of day,
glinting with the polish he has given them, softly catching your
attention rather than barking for it.
To give his third album his own name for its title, as if he’s
announcing himself to the world, suggests he sees this as something of a
fresh start. In fact he’s returned to Lex Price, who produced the first
album back in 2008, and this time they seem to have nailed a way of
giving him a produced sound that is both true to his own style and yet
seductive enough to catch the ears of a wider audience. There are some
star players on here – Marco Giovino, Will Kimbrough and John Deaderick
amongst them – and a wide palette of instrumentation on which to draw,
everything from fiddle and banjo to horns. Nothing intrudes on Robby
Hecht’s vocals however; everything is used with the utmost delicacy,
providing the very finest of steel strands by way of backbone. Piano,
organ and synthesisers in particular are used to great effect, the
gentlest of reinforcing to his melodic lines, whilst the guitar playing
throughout is beautiful – so subtly used that it could escape your
attention but listen to the soft guitar under Robby’s vocal on Stars and you could just swoon at the loveliness of it.
The surprise to me with this album is to hear the few more upbeat
numbers; as I’ve said, his songs tend to shimmer softly, but there are a
few songs here that are given the gentlest of driving beats in a way
that suits the man down to the ground. There’s something of a
higher-pitched JJ Cale about Papa’s Down The Road Dead and this is a joy to listen to, but the standout track by some distance for me is New York City.
Softly insistent drumbeats propel the song along; a dreamy electric
backing provides the perfect backdrop to some urban daydreaming. There’s
a nice little video to accompany this song, a jam-packed melange of New
York images old and new, an illustration of all the ideas and
impressions that inspired the song.
The more music I listen to, the more I appreciate the value of good production, and this one is spot-on. Robby Hecht is an album to absorb slowly, one where the quiet beauty will leave its mark on you.
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