Robbie Robertson's 1987 solo debut was an ambitious but only intermittently successful attempt to chart a new musical direction for himself 11 years after the Band had publicly called it quits. Four years later, Robertson's second solo set, Storyville, found him in much more familiar musical territory, as he steeped himself in both the music and the lore of New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz and home to many of the R&B masters who had been a primal influence on Robertson and the other members of the Band. Anyone hoping for a blowing session with Robbie Robertson leading a team of the Big Easy's finest through the Huey "Piano" Smith and Professor Longhair songbooks will have to keep on dreaming; noted perfectionist Robertson polished these sessions to a high gloss (with the help of co-producers Stephen Hague and Gary Gersh), and the funk and good humor of Crescent City R&B generally takes a back burner to more sophisticated lyrical conceits (moody character-based narratives and meditations on the hard edges of love dominate) and gracefully moody musical structures not entirely unlike the sophisticated melodies of his first album. But the material on Storyville does have a lighter step and a freer swing than the songs on Robertson's debut, and his vocals are in far better shape this time out, boasting a lot more body and nuance than the sometimes fragile rasp that dominated his first time at bat. And Robertson had the good sense to bring Art Neville, his brother Aaron, Ziggyboo Modeleste, and Chief Bo Dollis on board; if the New Orleans presence in these songs is more often felt than heard, it still snakes powerfully through the music and honors the spirits that helped influence this music. If Robbie Robertson was about taking his music to a new and different place, Storyville found him taking his music back home and still finding new room to move within it, and if it's a more subtle album, in many ways it's also more satisfying.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming