Singer Robin Banks Creates a Modern Classic on New CD

Article Contributed by Mark Pucci Media | Published on Thursday, November 20, 2014

Canadian roots music singer Robin Banks announces a November 25 release date for her self-released CD, Modern Classic, with distribution through CD Baby. Produced by acclaimed guitarist/producer Duke Robillard, who also adds his amazing guitar tones throughout the album, Modern Classic features a dozen all-original songs that showcase not only Robin’s sultry, soulful vocals, but also her strengths as a composer. Along with Robillard, she’s backed by an all-star band: Bruce Bears (keyboards), Mark Teixeira (drums), Brad Hallen (bass) and a horn section that includes Doug James (baritone sax), Doug Woolverton (trumpet) and Mark Early (sax) of the Roomful of Blues Horns. 

Based in Toronto, Robin Banks has already amassed a lengthy career as a touring and recording artist in both her native Canada and all over the world. She’s played extensively in the U.S. as well as Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, France and Jamaica. The songs on Modern Classic reveal an artist comfortable in a variety of idioms from jazz and pop to blues, soul and R&B. With the sympathetic support of Robillard and company backing her, Robin has crafted an album of scintillating grooves that alternately percolate with heat, and float like a butterfly around the musical notes the band creates in the air around her. She has a voice that’s been compared to such greats as Etta James and Dinah Washington. Rather than just a collection of songs, Modern Classic, with its insightful lyrics, strong melodies and flowing, artful presentation, commands listeners to embrace its entirety, similar to the way albums were recorded (and listened to) in the golden age of music recording from the 1960s and ‘70s.  

The music on Modern Classic covers ground ranging from Memphis and Muscle Shoals-rooted blues and soul, to swing, boogie-woogie, honky-tonk and sweet sounding jazz, compliments of Robin’s amazing pipes. After the recording sessions, Duke Robillard declared, “the songs on her new CD bring together all her talents in a way that shows her as a major force in roots music;” while keyboardist Bruce Bears called her “a hidden gem from Canada who deserves much wider recognition; I’ve never worked with a vocalist who had as much command of musical language and nuance as Robin.”

Robin Banks grew up 50 miles east of Detroit on a tobacco farm and drove a taxi in Toronto in the ‘80s to help support her singing career’s beginnings. In 1992, she put her blues band together near Windsor, Ontario, and was mentored by George “Wild Child” Butler and Alford “Chicago Pete” Harrell, while performing regionally. In 1997, Robin won Canada’s Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year, which was followed by performances at some of Canada's most-prominent jazz and blues festivals. That same year saw the release of her debut CD, Permanent Record, which included seven original compositions, and was followed by Robin going to Memphis and competing in the world-famous International Blues Challenge. She was later nominated in 1998, 2010 and 2011 for Female Vocalist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards.

In 1999, she moved to Texas and stayed for seven years, forming several bands around the Dallas/Fort Worth area with such blues/roots luminaries as drummer Marc Wilson (Anson and the Rockets), bassist Drew Allain (Mike Morgan and the Crawl), guitarists Brian “Hash Brown” Calway and Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds), drummer Danny Cochran (Delbert McClinton), bassist Bill Campbell (LaVern Baker) and tenor sax man Marchel Ivery (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers), among many others. During this time, Robin formed a very close and special personal friendship with the legendary singer/harmonica player Sam Myers, leader of Anson and the Rockets, who also played on her Honestly CD in 2000, comprised of 13 original songs that she wrote, arranged and produced. A year later, Robin recorded and released a live CD, titled Live after Dark, and toured regionally for the next four years throughout the region, as well as performing at many festivals.

In 2003, she toured Europe for the first time, with stops in Belgium and Holland. And in 2006, she relocated to Jamaica and became a hit there for three years, performing at nightclubs, festivals, resorts and hotels across the island with some of that country’s most-prominent musicians, including members of Bob Marley’s band. Robin returned home to Canada in 2009 and has been based there ever since. She now performs in two bands: one a straight blues group and the other a bit more diverse in its musical spectrum, including elements of jazz, jump blues, soul, R&B and even reggae. She continues to gig around 200 nights a year. 

Her last CD, released in 2010, was an album she co-wrote and produced in Dallas, titled Livin' Life, with pianist/artist Christian Dozzler, and was comprised of 14 original compositions. She also toured behind that CD with visits to Jamaica, Canada, Texas and three tours of Europe, including numerous concert and festival shows. One of the big festivals that she played in Europe behind Livin' Life was Gaildorf, the oldest (and one of the most prized) blues fest in Europe/Germany.

“Since returning to Canada, I have traveled back and forth from Jamaica probably 20 times to perform and remain prolific there,” Robin says. “I keep all my ties in Texas strong and open. In Jamaica, much like Texas and Canada, I am blessed to play with some of the highest level international musicians on the island, including Grammy award winners and the head of the music program at the arts college in Kingston.” 

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