Blue Giant , out on support of their new release on Vanguard Records, opened it up, wide open at about 10Pm Saturday night at The Basement in Nashville. Kevin and Anita Robinson who also are Viva Voce  and The full 5 piece band which is an all star band as far as the Portland Scene goes cranked it up quickly. 

Anita is a fantastic guitarist who makes full use of her sonic range on a Fender Jazzmaster and Red, White and Blue screened Fender Amp. Her ability at both feedback and lead lines is sublime. They are now on tour in support of Bobby Bare Jr., a little departure from the Viva Voce days playing on dates with The Shins. Viva Voce, Anita and Kevin, have made their home in Portland, Oregon in the alternative market of The Dandy Warhols and The Decemberists.

In an interesting turn of events, Kevin and Anita started the new project back a couple of years ago and self released in true indie fashion a vinyl EP as well as CD last year at the same time Viva Voce’ “Rose City” was released and Blue Giant was picked up by an eclectic label, Vanguard Records that may be considered more Folk and Americana than the Indie Rock past of Kevin and Anita.

They jumped into a set with long time drummer,Evan Railton as well  as current members W.C. Beck and Jesse Bates. The interplay was cool between Anita on Guitar and the utility guy with The El Camino College Shirt. She was able to go from lead line to sonic landscape ala Sonic Youth with Pedal Steel, Mountain Dulcimer or Mandolin to round out Country, Southern and the for the most part Cosmic Cowboy music accessible by some of the older folks there to see Bobby Bare Jr. as well as the East Nashville experimenters.

Kevin had a few call outs since he was back in Nashville that were both reflective “It was dark days when I lived here before” to the current mood “it’s great to see family, old friends and new friends out here tonight”.

New Vanguard Records Release

Anita gave a shout out to family who probably travelled up from Alabama. It seemed that the farther they got into the set the more the music became comfortable and strong. It was like I would have liked to hear the first three songs again at the end to see if they could have been even more there.

Before they announced the last three songs they took a lineup that featured Kevin on Banjo, El Camino College guy (from Arkansas) on Mandolin, Bass, Drums and featured Anita on her long time Viva Voce companion, a 3/4 scale Rickenbacker black and white that absolutely sounded killer as she played slide the rest of the evening.

Kevin and Anita, Viva Voce days

I got a chance to talk with Kevin afterwards and he said this was the best time he had in Nashville in a long time. I talked to him about how things had changed in Nashville, things are a little bit more wide open.

 He is  from Muscle Shoals, Alabama  an important chapter for not only Lynyrd Skynyrd, but also Bob SeegerThe Rolling StonesBob Dylan and even Cher. He did know one of the Muscle Shoals Rythmn Section, David Hood. They had to be back on as they were hired to be Bobby Bare Jr.’s backing band on this tour. 

In talking to Anita I found out she was from Decatur, Alabama. That is a double plus for me since I consider Birmingham, Alabama my other hometown outside of growing up in California. I talked to her about Vanguard, how they had also signed Mindy Smith, one of the greatest current Singer/Songwriters from Nashville. 

She said the label picnics were unbelievable when you think of the other Artists currently on Vanguard, especially Merle Haggard, Levon Helm and even Indigenous.  They are definitely in good company and their album dropped at a good time. In a way, Blue Giant is full circle, it allows them to not only throw in some of the sonic qualities of Viva Voce but also take from the past, the things they grew up on. In a way it is another band that makes the statement that Graham Parsons was right, Southern and Country Music can be opened up and the possibilities are endless.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN      thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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