Image © Rose Robbins 2005
(22 January 2006) Although she now lives in Idaho, Rose Robbins was raised on a farm in the Pacific Northwest, and spent her childhood immersed in the classical composers, listening for hours to Mozart, Mendelssohn and Brahms. When she was eleven, her family bought a piano, and soon after that, Rose bought her first record of piano music, a second-hand copy of Mozart's C Major Piano Concerto. She learned the whole slow movement by memory, from listening to the record over and over. Her compositions, during these years, were strictly classical, string quartets and sonatas that were scribbled in pencil over any available piece of paper.
In her teens, Rose began to compose songs with words. Her own deep, smoky voice sounded "wrong" to her. She'd heard that girls are supposed to sing high – so she contented herself with writing songs for other girls to sing. It wasn't till the age of twenty-three, with close to fifty songs already written, that Rose performed a song she'd written in public.
On her self-released debut CD, Close Your Eyes, Rose plays all the keyboards and guitars and she also writes and arranges all the songs. The balance of the playing is carried out by session musicians. Rose's piano playing is especially effective throughout, allowing space for her mesmerizing voice to seduce you, through her songs, deeper and deeper into her world.
"Luminous" deservedly won Best Song of 2004 in the International Online Music Awards, in which Rose was also nominated for Best Female Solo Artist. It's a superb song with a luscious piano intro which is almost a track in itself before the rest of the instrumentation kicks in. It has a wonderful feel and atmosphere and her delivery is terrific, it would be an easy song to over-sing, but Rose hits it just right. Matching this is "Falling Down" with its memorable chorus, some gorgeous harmonies, a timeless feel and again the delivery is spot on.
The album is peppered with beautifully effective love songs. "Stained Glass Window" and "Call Me Softly" convey a true sense of the emotion unlike so many songs of that ilk. The inherent strength and power of "Let Me Go!" is unfortunately hindered by a surprisingly tame and anemic arrangement which does the song few favors. This is perhaps due to lack of forces she's able to muster for a debut album, but somewhere in there, there's a massive Motown style song trying to get out.
"Whisper" has a late fifties feel to it and is a song an artist like Julie London would have given her eye-teeth for. While it's a moving piece, it doesn't quite fit with the pervading feel of the album. But there is a strong visual, filmic quality to this and much of the work on the album.
The album closes with two stunning tracks. "Pale Yellow Rose," a hypnotic tale of domestic violence and "131" her setting of 131st Psalm, which also benefits from some lovely, subdued cello work from Jesse Ahman, though as with the rest of the disc, it's Rose's mesmerizing voice that is the undoubted highlight. It is hard to counternance that this woman spent such a long period of her life believing she couldn't sing.
The album covers a lot of ground stylistically, and there-within lies the album's only weakness. A cabaret / show style piece like the title track, or the amusing "Just Shoot Me" which owes much to Tom Lehrer, may well be fine in the right setting, but in the context of this CD, they are patently out of place and break the mood and flow of the disc, and, worst of all--distract rather from the other tracks--which is a great pity because despite these reservations, this is a disc, and a voice, that demands and deserves a wide audience.
For the most part Close Your Eyes is a wonderfully intimate album, full of depth and emotion, displaying some fabulous song-writing and a voice that will haunt your dreams.--Jamie Field in Hereford, England