FEATURING THE COLUMBUS MUSIC COMMUNITY AND MORE
On Doc Robinson‘s track “Drive Slow” from their new album DEEP END, band member Nick D’Andrea (vocals, guitar) says, “We set out to write a tune that best described the coming-of-age, mind-blowing moments and vibrations from our youth.”
It’s this mindset that turns D’Andrea and his Doc Rob co-conspirator Jon Elliott‘s DEEP END from a set of songs into a set of stories. The lyrics communicate experiences, and the melodies convey emotion and meaning behind the words. Listening to the album in full, each song transitions into the next smoothly and deliberately, yet melodies and hooks vary just enough to avoid any redundancy.
Redundant is the last word I’d use to describe the Columbus-based duo’s album. It starts off with one of my favorite tracks of the year, “Slip Away.” Fun doo-wop scatting and trumpet melodies immediately draw the listener in, head bopping along to the soulful chorus (“I would change my name for you… I would, I would,” insist D’Andrea and Elliott).
Trumpet riffs and harmonies abound through the next track, “Cut Me Loose,” then transition to the anthemic “Drive Slow,” which, with soulful harmonica playing and a prominent cymbal drumbeat, sounds like a badass biker gang came together to make a country-western rock song. That gang is actually D’Andrea and Elliott’s “musical brethren,” AKA a whole slew of Columbus-based musicians that Doc Robinson recruited to “achieve a loose, live, big-band energy and natural feel” in that track as well as others on the LP.
While you can see a full list of collaborators on the band’s website, Doc Robinson favorite Correy Parks features on “I’m Not Gone.” Elliott says, “[Parks] came in and delivered exactly what we wanted on the track, and really took it to another level… ‘I’m Not Gone’ came together very quickly and organically right from the start, and was a blast to record and produce.”
I particularly like the harmonies in the chorus of the title track, “Deep End,” as well as in the slower “Older.” “Older,” “Borderline,” and “Heavy Like”–my favorite song off the album–serve as emotive songs, both lyrically and musically, briefly interrupted by the serenading interlude that is “Summer Moon.” As the album concludes, “Break My Fall” brings both the sound and beat down a bit.
The intricate “Marie” brings a few more twists and turns as a final track. It starts off ominously: the words, “You know my name, but you don’t know me, Marie,” create an unresolved ending, perhaps setting the stage for a DEEP END sequel. But the tune slips into a sweet chorus and conclusion:
I put my heart out / right on my sleeve. / I’ll be the ocean, you’ll be the breeze. / All of your armor, all of my shame / Everything passes, fuck what they say. / No one is perfect, nothing is free. / I’ll be the branches, you’ll be the leaves, / Marie.
DEEP END has been a long time coming for D’Andrea and Elliott, long-time friends and concert buddies who came together to form Doc Robinson just last year. While Doc Robinson may officially consist of just D’Andrea and Elliott, they’re the first to acknowledge the immense community built up around their project–along with many collaborations with Columbus-based musicians, the LP was also partially funded by the public through a Kickstarter campaign.
Around the 5 minute mark of “Marie,” the song slows down. Computer-like beeps and sound clips fade in and out randomly. Then harmonica riffs develop into a beat-backed sax solo. What was once a fairly typical track turns into a full-out, don’t-hold-back jam session. For Doc Robinson, I couldn’t imagine a better note to end on.