Steve Boisson interviewed Terry for the "Roots" section of the March 2006 issue:
"As a producer, arranger, and sideman, Terry Robb has traveled down some diverse musical paths. He has performed the lullaby and finale from Stravinsky's The Firebird with John Fahey; wafted through Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" with Mark Hanson, Doug Smith, and Paul Chasman in the Acoustic Guitar Summit; and most recently produced a CD for experimental guitarist Phil Kellogg. On this particular night, however, while performing solo at a low-key gig in Beaverton, Oregon, Robb is serving up a strict diet of blues-classics from Son House, Gary Davis, and Blind Blake, along with some fingerpicked originals. "I'm a blues player," says the affable guitarist. "I learned how to play the guitar by listening to blues guys like Charley Patton and Mississippi John Hurt. I play other kinds of music, too, but I always come off sounding bluesy."
Still, Robb's experience with varied musical genres has enhanced his rootsier efforts. The present case in point is Resting Place (Yellow Dog Records), a collection of 13 bedrock American songs recorded at the Sam Phillips Recording Service studio in Memphis, Tennessee. While the feel of the music is familiar, Robb frequently spices the home cooking with outside ingredients. "Like Merle,"a tribute to Merle Travis, combines Travis-style turnarounds with Django-like flourishes. "Cassie," a gently rolling meditation in D, borrows sliding ninth chords from Maurice Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess." ("It's like if you took an old Elizabeth Cotten song and mixed it with Ravel," Robb notes.) In "Knowing What Blues," a Cmin9 chord breaks the ragtime feel and transports the tune to another era. "I came up with that chord and wrote the song around it," he explains.
To Robb, these eclectic touches personalize and invigorate the music. "You make things contemporary when you put your own personality into them," he says. "Ry Cooder always sounded contemporary when he did a Blind Blake song. You've got to put your own personality into it, and that means that you learn the stuff and then you do your own things to it."
Robb demonstrates this onstage, working a standard shuffle in E into a lather of bounding arpeggios and single-string runs that race along over a thumping bass. At another point, he kicks off what sounds like an easy listening rendition of "Hesitation Blues," only to add increasingly complex breaks as the song progresses. "I play a lot of off-time stuff," Robb says. "I play over the bar, and I play odd groups of notes sometimes. I cram them in."
Clearly, Robb is not of the "less is more" school of soloists. "A lot of times, people say that if you're playing a whole bunch of notes, it's not right. Well, I disagree with that," he argues. "I think you can play a whole bunch of notes as long as you mean everything. Charlie Parker played a whole bunch of notes, so did John Coltrane.
"The best approach is to be honest in what you do, no matter how many notes you play, or how few notes you play. It should always mean something. John Lee Hooker is probably one of the simplest sounding players, but what he does with just two notes is very sophisticated. And he tells an incredible story because of it. That's the most important thing-telling your story.""
- Steve Boisson, Acoustic Guitar, March 2006
The veteran guitarist takes a "more is more" approach by incorporating
Django Reinhardt flourishes, Impressionist harmonies, and jazzy modes
into his country-blues picking. By Steve Boisson. - See more at: http://www.acousticguitar.com/Magazine/Issues/159#sthash.PeBJ5N3g.dpuf