Hays Davis online here • 5 October 2009
Singers over the years have described their difficulty in finding a unique
voice at the start of their career. George Jones worked to find a way out from
under Hank Williams’s shadow. Guitarists have dealt with their version of the
issue, where a key influence can dog a player as more of a curse than a
Guitarist Robin Trower, while ready to acknowledge his influences, feels confident that he found his instrumental voice early on. “That’s one of the things, right from when I first started playing, was looking for what I had to say,” said Trower, speaking from New Haven, Connecticut. “I think, probably, it comes through more because of being a writer, being a proper composer. I think the compositional side of what I do is really what establishes the identity.”
“I’ve always felt I’ve had it. Obviously there’s lots of elements of your influences in what you do as a player, but I’ve always felt it was me playing the notes, and I’ve always felt it has been distinctive as well.”
Robin Trower began his career in England in 1962 with an outfit called The Paramounts. A few years later, after that band had called it quits, Trower was invited by former Paramounts member Gary Brooker to join Brooker’s new group, Procol Harum. Trower left Procol Harum in 1971 and, after a short spell in Jude with singer Frankie Miller, the guitarist began his solo career with a trio of his own in 1973.
Trower’s Hendrix-influenced sound caught on with rock listeners and he quickly became an established solo name. Each of his first five studio albums went gold, from 1973’s Twice Removed From Yesterday through '77’s In City Dreams. Over the next several decades he has remained active with touring and recording, with his latest album, What Lies Beneath, following 2007’s set with Jack Bruce, Seven Moons.
“I definitely, consciously, tried to make an album that was different to anything that I had done recently,” said the guitarist of his work on What Lies Beneath. “You can’t say it’s sort of not like anything you’ve done before because it’s still my music, which is all going to sound similar. I wanted it to be more of a record. That was the main thing; I wanted it to be music made specifically for the studio, for a CD, rather than quite often what gets into a lot of my recordings is the live side of it, playing it live.”
What Lies Beneath is a solid representation of 2009 Robin Trower, as fine an example of the guitarist’s blues-rock signature as any of his work dating back to the Seventies. Its consistency serves to point out that Trower is right: he found his instrumental voice many years ago, and it plays just as clearly now.
“Well, I think it’s something you’re working on all the time, is developing yourself and trying to improve all the time as a player, but there’s certain things you can’t change about what you do musically. Basically it comes right down to the fundamental of what you’re born with. You can work on it, but that really is the core of what you’re doing.”