Robin McKelle (b.1976 New York) is jazz singer, regularly compared to Ella Fitzgerald for her alto register. She has shared the stage with prestigious artists such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Bobby McFerrin.
Memphis. The city is like a place of pilgrimage for any soul, blues, or rhythm and blues fan. “I wanted to capture the Memphis sound in the recording process and the goal was to write the music and arrangements with that sound in mind.” says Robin McKelle.
Her amazing way of singing ‘It’s Over This Time’ and her poignant interpretation of ‘Forgetting You’ (one of the two covers on the album, along with ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ which has been rearranged in a deep soul style), illustrate perfectly where she finds her inspiration.
McKelle was really keen to sing McClinton's ‘Forgetting You’: “He was an African American country music singer and songwriter, which was a very rare thing, by the way. After I heard a recording of James Carr sing it, and being blown away, I really wasn't sure I could pull it off but Scott encouraged me to do it. We both felt that it was an authentic Memphis song being written and recorded in Memphis so it brings some history to the music as well.” But she still needed to find the strength necessary to carry such a moment of intense emotion. “When I’m really going for it on a blues or something like really powerful, yes, I’m taking more from singers like Otis Redding, James Brown and Sam Moore.” she explains.
As for the title song, Heart Of Memphis, it has a country sound with a note of nostalgia. “I've been told so many times in my youth that I should be a country singer… ha ha! Well, I guess I've tapped into that part a little with my songwriting.”
Songs such as ‘About To Be Your Baby’, ‘Like A River’, and ‘Easier That Way’ immediately bring to mind the Hi Records sessions with Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell. “I love the way the horns have such a huge part of the sound”, says McKelle. “They are mixed pretty dry and they are out front in the mix. The horn lines are simple and strong but it’s as if they almost become as important as the melody at times.”