Perfectly ragged Blue Giant’s debut LP begins with a song about starting over, and that’s just what these Pacific Northwesterners have done. Comprised of members from a smattering of Portland bands and anchored by Viva Voce’s Kevin and Anita Robinson, the new outfit’s hungry, impulsive olio of folk, rock and alt-country tangles up the sounds of its members’ pasts in a tumbleweed of strings, drawls and hollers. On the album’s more provincial moments, like the wistful “Target Heart,” soft whispers adorn raggedy acoustics like flecks of sunlight on a dusty barn floor; elsewhere, “Blue Sunshine” stomps and bucks its way through a holy mess of rowdy chords and harmonicas, and the equally fervent “Go On” presses forth with a militant vigor.
After 11 years and five albums, Viva Voce called it quits in 2009, but the husband-and-wife team of Kevin and Anita Robinson didn't stay idle for long -- they gave up working as a duo to form Blue Giant, a sort of Pacific Northwest supergroup in which the two singers and instrumentalists joined forces with Chris Funk of the Decemberists on pedal steel and banjo, Seth Lorinczi of the Golden Bears on bass and keyboards, and Evan Railton of the Swords on drums and keyboards. The group's self-titled debut confirms the Robinson's instincts were right on the money --their fine vocals and guitar work are the heart and soul of this music, but their similarly talented accompanists have allowed them to add more space and color to their music and still keep this fusion of country twang, pop melodies, and rock & roll attitude sounding fresh and spontaneous. Anita's fierce electric leads, Kevin's rock-solid acoustic work, and Funk's steel are a winning combination, generating a high lonesome vibe that firmly underscores the country leanings of the songs, while Lorinczi and Railton put a healthy swing into the rhythms, and even while this group is indulging in their rootsy influences, they generate enough sweat to keep the rockists in the audience interested.
Blue Giant is the new band created by members of Viva Voce, Kevin and Anita Robinson. Much like their primary band, the married couple share lead and backing vocal duties, while Kevin leaves the drums behind here to join Anita on guitar. The rest of the band is rounded out by musicians from Portland, Oregon, including Swords’ Evan Railton on drums, the Golden Bears’ Seth Lorinczi on bass, and the Decemberists’ lead guitarist, Chris Funk, on pedal steel, banjo, and bazouki.
As Viva Voce, the husband-wife team of Kevin and Anita Robinson created some of Portland's most sophisticated indie pop-- their music was rangey yet concise, downcast yet somehow exuberant. As Blue Giant, they do pretty much the same thing, except this time they add some rootsy elements: acoustic guitars, pedal steel, harmonica, mandolin, and footstomps on wooden floorboards. It's an intriguing twist, especially coming from the Robinsons, who arrived in the Pacific Northwest from the Deep South, with a short stopover in Nashville.