Robin Trower: Roots and Branches Review

Robin Trower is back. The guitar legend is returning to his roots, hence his new album titled, Roots and Branches. The album is composed entirely of covers, and these are the songs that just about every garage band has played at some point. It is an impressive list: “Little Red Rooster,” “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “Hound Dog,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” and the list goes on. This is the perfect album for somebody as established as Trower to do at this point in his career. He has had a world of success and he wants to have fun with what he started out playing nearly 50 years ago.

With an album comprised entirely of covers, there is risk involved. A good cover should pay homage to the original but make the song your own. A straight note-for-note copying is boring. Luckily, there is nothing boring about this album. The album opens with “Hound Dog,” a song that Elvis made famous, but actually a blues tune recorded by “Big Mama” Thornton in 1952. This version succeeds in branching out from it’s twelve-bar blues roots with Trower doing some serious string-bending. A great way to set the tone for the album. His version of the B.B King classic, “The Thrill is Gone,” is one that will surely make B.B smile. His haunting tone will give you goosebumps and warrants multiple listens.

Perhaps the centerpieces of the album are Howlin’ Wolf’s classic “Little Red Rooster,” and the Albert King’s equally great, “Born Under a Bad Sign.” “Rooster” has been covered by everybody from the Rolling Stones to the Grateful Dead, and Trower’s rendition would make the Wolf proud. This reading is primal and raw and Trower’s tone delivers a truly meaty version. “Born Under a Bad Sign,” echoes more Cream’s version than the original, but that is by no means a bad thing. The band is spot on the whole time, but whenever Trower decides to take over, he reminds us this is his record.

The rest of the album is also a treat to hear. “Shapes of Things To Come,” is a nice Hendrix-esque piece. Another song Elvis famously covered, “That’s Alright Mama,” is done in a nice New Orleans style and it swings. The whole album smokes and it is nice to hear from a guitar wizard like Trower in this context. This album is very much a tribute album and it works from start to finish and reminds everybody how talented he is.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Hound Dog
– Little Red Rooster
– Born Under A Bad Sign
– The Thrill Is Gone

The Big Hit

– Little Red Rooster

Review by Charlie DuMez

Buy the album: Amazon | iTunes

6 thoughts on “Robin Trower: Roots and Branches Review

  • February 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm
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    The album I was told is 6 covers, 5 originals.No review has said

    all covers. Scott

    Reply
  • February 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm
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    I will always be a Trower fan. His guitar sounds are pure. He has outlasted all his rivals.

    I draw a distinct line between “Blues” And “Blues Rock”. 9 of the 11 songs on this album are Blues.
    Two of them are Blues Rock. I prefer the blues rock. My favorite songs this album are “Shape of Things to Come”
    and “See My Life”.

    Trower’s 2010 album “A Playful Heart” was all blues rock. I consider that album one of this top three albums
    (if not the best). I fact most of albums have been blues rock. That’s not say that is album isn’t a good
    album. His rendition of “Born Under a Bad Sign” is excellant.

    His 2009 album “What Lies Beneath” was the 1st time that I heard Robin sing. His voice is ok, not exceptional. I get
    the impression he did this album to establish himself a singer as much a guitar player. The best vocals on the
    album are on “Sheltered Moon”. If that is truely his voice I would be impressed. Robin sings six of these songs,
    Richard Watts sings the other five.

    Reply
  • October 2, 2013 at 11:26 am
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    Hey… Robin is 68 years old and doesn’t miss a thing.

    You think he’s been frequenting singing lessons in his
    twilight years? Criticize Ian Anderson if you want to talk
    downgrade in singing, but even he is otherwise holding
    his own musically (Martin Barre or not).

    You hear our modern day maestro Joe Bonamassa and
    can’t help but think Robin was his muse in some way.

    Reply
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    Permalink

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