Robin English

Velvet-Covered Brick

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Geez, and Aimee Mann thinks she has problems with the record industry. Coming out a mere six years after her debut single, Velvet-Covered Brick is (hopefully) the final version of Robin English's debut album. Released after a torturous process that included getting bounced by a major label's Nashville division because said debut single was lost in a corporate downsizing and the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, plus an earlier version of the album that was released on Koch Entertainment's country imprint Aspirion as Robin English in 2006 with different cover art, some different mixes, and a couple of minor songs ("Hello Me" and "I'm Yours") that were left off this version. So finally, going the self-release and indie distribution route, Robin English finally has her debut album out. And it's...OK. English, who co-produced the album and wrote or co-wrote every song, is a pretty decent country songwriter with an eye for textural detail; "Baby You're the Man" and several other songs make direct reference to her east Texas roots in a fashion sure to please other Lone Star staters. She also has a better than average voice, with a particularly impressive low register, as she shows on the bluesy gospel tune "Mission of Mercy" and the sultry purr of "Wake Up Loving You." But those appealing elements are set against some fairly average tunes given a generally disinterested Nashville-style radio-ready gloss that tends to overpower the more unique, personal traits of English's lyrics and vocals. Put in a more stripped-down, live sounding setting (maybe even an actual live album!), Robin English and her songs would come across much better than they do here. Perhaps having finally gotten this project completed to her liking, she can move forward from here.

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