[28 June 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
I have a friend, a former freelance arts reporter, who once claimed to me that all punk rockers eventually go country, citing Neko Case as an example. Well, you might want to add former hair metal musicians to that statement. Janet Robin started out in the ‘80s all-female glam-rock band Precious Metal and was even trained by the late and great Randy Rhoads of Ozzy Osbourne’s backing band. Since then, though, she’s gone soft shoe, as both a solo artist and backing guitarist for the likes of Lindsay Buckingham, Meredith Brooks, and, uh, Air Supply. On Robin’s fifth solo album, Everything Has Changed (originally released in 2010 and now reappearing with different front cover album art), Robin has moulded herself into an acoustic singer-songwriter in the best tradition of Sheryl Crow. The 11-track album offers a range of styles, from the gutsy “View From Above”, a treatise on standing tall when everyone expects you to fail (which appears unnecessarily twice in both a short, single-like version and a long extended jam), to covers of “Dream Baby” (popularized by Roy Orbison), and PJ Harvey’s “This is Love”, which are both of debatable quality. There are also much more successful power ballads in the best Bon Jovi-like vein in the form of “Bruise Easily” and the title track, and the all-out histrionics of “CHR #137”, played on a loose-stringed acoustic. In some respects, though Robin may have changed genres, things remain absolutely the same: She knows her way around the fretboard.
As such, there’s an awful lot going on with Everything Has Changed, which was produced by John Carter Cash (yes, son of Johnny and June). The album tends to work best, though, when Robin focuses on her core strength – playing wild acoustic guitar – and less when she tries to imitate the roots-rock successes of Crow and Jack Johnson. This recording is also cheapened by the liner notes list of “angel investors” who contributed to the recording process, along with a list of logos from guitar companies and such that Robin is endorsed by. This might just be a new reality for independent musicians in that they might have to secure funding by new and unconventional means. However, when you’re dealing in a genre such as Americana, a genre which elevates songs written from the heart and soul with a great deal of grit, it comes across as demeaning the value of what you do somehow. Still, Everything Has Changed has its moments, and whether or not Robin is sincere when it comes to playing ragged roots-rock is largely left moot when she closes her mouth and lets her fingers do the talking. As a bonus, Everything Has Changed is an Enhanced CD (remember those?), containing footage of the recording process at Cash Cabin in Tennessee.