(4 / 5)
I am still having therapy after seeing the album cover photograph on Bob Cheevers’ 2002 release, “We Are All Naked”. Just an acoustic guitar to hide his modesty. Nurse….
But the perfect medicine is Texas-based troubadour Bob’s latest offering, a bumper box set of five discs, offering 83 songs as a retrospective to celebrate his 50th year as a songwriter. And one hell of a songwriter he is, with more than 3000 songs to his credit. With this new collection, we get cuts from nine of his ten albums, a few demos and a good selection of previously unreleased album tracks.
There’s two from “Compelled To Confess”, six from “Gettysburg To Graceland”, seven from “Texas To Tennessee”, five tracks from “We Are Naked”, six lifted from the album “The Stories I Write”, seven from “Smoke And Mirrors”, two which were on “Tall Texas Tales”, three from the superb “On Earth As It Is In Austin” (his last album), and three from “Fiona’s World”.
His early years growing up in Memphis gave him a taste for the R’n’B and blues flavour of the Mississippi Delta. After college, Bob headed for Los Angeles and left the place where he and Elvis were hometown boys. 25 years in the pop field resulted in a number of chart hits under his own name, and the band he was part of called The Peppermint Trolley Company. One of their credits was singing the theme song to the TV sitcom “Love American Style”.
The historical changes of the 60’s played no small role in Bob’s life which, during that time, also included representation by Neil Young’s and Joni Mitchell’s management team. The power of change of that period began the life long journey of Bob discovering his musical and personal voices, which in no time began to show up in his song writing. A true artist emerged.
His LA music publisher had an office in Nashville and suggested that Bob move there, because he was being pitched as a songwriter and an artist. Already an Emmy-winning songwriter, Bob was invited to be a show opener on what was to be Johnny Cash’s final tour, after which Cash chose to record one of Bob’s songs.
In 2009, after 16 years in the Nashville song writing machine, Bob headed for Austin to concentrate on being ‘the artist’ in his own right, and to get away from what he felt was a conveyor belt of writers chasing chart hits and shackling his artistic freedom. After only three years in Texas, Bob became the Texas Music Awards Singer Songwriter Of The Year in 2011 for his album, “Tall Texas Tales”. His 10 commercial CD’s offer a wealth of jazz, rock, singer-songwriter, folk and country genres, and are a great snap shot of his versatility and his very own sound. A born story-teller, the spinning of his rootsy, blues flavoured tales of life in a language of the heart, provide Bob the roadmap for his journey.
All sorts of great players back him up across the collection, including soul legend keys man Spooner Oldham, Bob’s long-time colleague Charlie White, Bonnie Raitt’s right hand guitar man George Marinelli, bass legend Michael Rhodes, and many other top drawer players from Nashville, Memphis and Texas. We even have two UK guys on one cut; On the song, “Fiona’s World,” the Bodhran’ percussion and penny whistles are performed by Dan Britton and Chris Conway respectively, and were recorded at Chris Conway’s Studio in Leicester. The title track of Bob’s 2008 release.
You cannot help but smile when hearing tales of rebels, outlaws, dreamers and lovers. Even underpants! There’s songs of adventure and misadventure, comedy and tragedy, history and fantasy. He has a loyal following over here and in Europe, after a decade of touring across the pond.
Call him roots, call him folk, call him blues, call him whatever you like. If anyone actually knows what the heck Americana is, maybe this is as close as it gets. But if these 83 songs do not give you a bloody good insight into ‘who’ and ‘what’ Bob Cheevers is – and how darn good he is at what he does for a living – then I politely suggest you go play golf. Me; I’ll just call him ‘Brilliant Bob the over-a-cheever’. See what I did then?
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’