Listen Up: Wednesday, November 07, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Robin Sylar

Bust Out (Race Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

The first time I ever saw Robin Sylar, he was doing his surfabilly thang at Borders. At first I thought he mighta been the guy who does the rockabilly show on KNON, the way he just sat there and played at low volume. But I was wrong. He was something Entirely Other.

The next time I saw him, at a benefit show at the Keys Lounge, he was playing an open-tuned Telecaster with a capo and flashing lights in his guitar strap, doing the very best Albert Collins impersonation I’d ever seen or could imagine. When he and Homer Henderson launched into Jimmy Forrest’s venerable “Night Train” as a shuffle, I about came unglued.

The point is that Robin Sylar isn’t just your average blooze guitar-slinger — he’s not only all over the map, he’s thoroughly out to lunch (the same place Sun Ra and Captain Beefheart eat at). In short, the man is unhinged, and that sensibility comes through loud and clear on Bust Out, released by expatriate Midwesterner/poet/blues scholar Wes Race, who recites on one track and gets a credit as “cryptic advisor & executive producer.” This may be, for want of a better term, the first acid-blues record — and not just because of the eight-plus minutes of “Flashback” at the end — and Sylar is an imagineer of the medium.

Throughout, his playing is incendiary, his tunes are slightly off-kilter, his lyrics range from merely clever to downright disturbing. It sounds in some places like Rev. Horton Heat on bad strychnine, in others like Stevie Ray returned from the grave and really pissed, in others like Dick Dale on human growth hormone. (Hint: Listen closely for the bagpipes.)

Be afraid.


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