Guitarist/songwriter Brian Robertson returned to the spotlight with his first solo album, 2011's fantastic Diamonds and Dirt. Also known by the nickname Robbo, the Scottish axe slinger first gained fame as one-half of the guitar team fueling the 1974-1978 prime of the criminally underappreciated Thin Lizzy. (There's much more depth to the band than just the classic anthem "The Boys are Back in Town," and Robertson and Scott Gorham arguably perfected the two-lead-guitars concept in a rock format.) Next, Robertson was a member of Wild Horses for two albums in the early '80s before a brief, ill-fated stint in Motörhead for 1983's Another Perfect Day. In the following years, he worked with cult favorite Frankie Miller, embraced miscellaneous musical projects, formed a production company, and spent most of his time working in Scandinavia and Europe. Diamonds and Dirt is a treasure for fans of melodic hard rock and meaty electric guitar work with gritty character and personality; Robertson unleashes superb chords, riffs, and solos from his Gibson Les Paul. This 13-track collection features previously unreleased originals, new versions of two Thin Lizzy songs, and Miller and Jim White covers. Robertson recruited many guests including MSG vocalist Leif Sundin, Europe drummer Ian Haugland, and Riverdogs vocalist Rob Lamothe. Liny Wood provides backing vocals and her lively voice is a big plus. "Diamonds and Dirt" kicks off the album, and it's a hook-laden hard rock tune that likely would have been a hit single in the '80s (that's a compliment, by the way). An innovative, moody arrangement is one of the "Texas Wind" highlights, along with Robertson's unhinged guitar solo. The Thin Lizzy remakes are lesser-known songs, not the hits -- "It's Only Money" (from 1974's Night Life) and two versions of "Running Back" (from 1976's Jailbreak); the fast version of "Running Back" is an energetic stomper whereas the slow version is an intriguing blend of blues and pop. Speaking of Thin Lizzy, Robertson and vocalist/bass guitarist Phil Lynott co-wrote "Blues Boy," an appropriately named, slinky, blues-rock number making its debut here. The best Miller covers are "Mail Box" and "Ain't Got No Money" (which Bob Seger included on 1978's Stranger in Town). Robertson's sole lead vocal credit is his hypnotic version of the White oddity "10 Miles to Go on a 9 Mile Road." Diamonds and Dirt should please listeners who thought nobody recorded guitar-based, melody-soaked rock music like this anymore. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Bret Adams