A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
The name Fenton Robinson won’t immediately bring anything to mind for most people. But it should be as familiar as Buddy Guy or Otis Rush. Robinson not only wrote a few blues standards, like “Texas Flood,” he also recorded one of the genre’s undeniably great albums, 1974’s Somebody Loan Me a Dime.
I’m not sure why mainstream success eluded Robinson. It seems like a lot of bad luck. In 1969 Boz Scaggs took credit for the song “Somebody Loan Me a Dime,” resulting in drawn-out legal battles. Likewise, the song “Texas Flood” became a hit for Stevie Ray Vaughan, but was wrongly attributed to someone else. A car accident landed Robinson in jail for manslaughter in the late ’70s, interrupting a bit of a high point in his career. There were even some disastrous recording sessions in which producers convinced Robinson to let a studio musician play lead guitar, claiming his unorthodox soloing was holding him back. I defy you to listen to his playing for more than a minute without wanting to hunt down those producers and throttle them.
At least we have Somebody Loan Me a Dime. It’s perfect. It would be enough of a legacy for any musician. Eleven songs without a dud. No hackneyed shuffles. No gimmicky choruses. No Fluff. Despite a sizable backing band, the focus is all on Robinson’s mellow, soulful voice, his great songwriting, and his uniquely jazzy guitar work. If I have to pick favorites from the album I’d say the duo of Chicago themed songs are the best. There’s “The Getaway”—a minor key lament in which he pines for a trip out of the city, somewhere warm preferably. Then there’s “Goin’ to Chicago”—all about having good times in town. (I’m guessing the former was written in January and the later in May.) The guitar solo on “Goin’ to Chicago” is a particular highlight. It’s slowly and thoughtfully improvised. Afterwords you feel like you’ve just had a conversation with the man playing it. What better compliment is there for a soloist?
Somebody Loan Me a Dime is a recent addition to our growing blues section here at Thomas Ford. Come in and check it out. You could scarcely do better if you’re in the mood for some soulful Chicago blues.
Review by Matthew