Singer/writer Robin McKelle is a musical enigma, and proudly so. On her upcoming April 20th album Melodic Canvas, she’s empowered by the alchemy, embracing her genre-blurring style and no longer trying to fit into a box. The result is a deeply textured, rich, authentic collection, a mix of timely social commentary, intimate lyrics and a thoughtful call to action.
A savvy songwriter and a powerhouse vocalist, McKelle has long found a home where soul, jazz, pop, gospel, blues and the American Songbook cross paths. On the new cd, her sonic template takes listeners on a trip down to the Old South, or sprinkles in a sound that could’ve emerged from the Motown era, or even a Sade album. In her live performances, she exudes a bandleader’s moxie that recalls the Rat Pack era.
There’s an insightful storyteller’s voice that connects the new songs, a narrative thread that feels smart and soulful. McKelle’s characters are vividly drawn, from the struggling teen in ‘Lyla’ to the immigrant tale of ‘Simple Man’; the moments of social awareness, in ‘Yes We Can Can’ (an Allen Toussaint cover featuring Chris Potter) and ‘It Won’t End Up’, are wise and inspiring without feeling heavy-handed; on first single ‘Do You Believe’, out March 30th, McKelle questions religion, hate, misogyny.
For the upcoming CD (which she produced,) McKelle sought a more ‘acoustic’ vibe with a focus on percussion, to allow the subtleties of her voice to shine. In her songwriting and in the arrangements/production of the album, she mixes her varied influences together with strength and grace.
She comments, “There is a common thread that weaves through the music of this album. To inspire, through music, kindness and acceptance and a willingness to have the courage to stand with our brothers and sisters in equality no matter color, race, religion or ethnicity. To foster hope at a time when we seem to need it most. A musical mentor once told me that as an artist, this is our call to action. Melodic Canvas is my contribution.