From its opening tune “Yeah,” a rambunctious and frolicsome romp, until the final bars of “The Open Door,” which closes the disk, listening to Andy Robinson’s latest CD, Music Bucket, made me extremely happy. As soon as I finished listening to it the first time, I played it all over again, from beginning to end. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Like the yelps and screams of six and seven-year-olds on their merry-go-rounds and swing sets, the tunes on Music Bucket are the sounds of childlike playfulness and unselfconscious pleasure, irrepressible joy and fun. Even on the sensitive and ethereal compositions, the feeling is not so much of mature reflection as it is of innocent wonder. Themes and riffs are introduced, played with, and drop in and out. Grooves are established then disestablished. One tune, “November,” appears then reappears several tunes later, if only for a few seconds.
Robinson is a veteran musician, going back all the way to the Jurassic period of the sixties, when he played in cover bands and moved on to progressive rock in the seventies. Each composition on Music Bucket actually reveals a great deal of musical sophistication. It’s just that Robinson doesn’t allow his experience and musical knowledge to constrain his creativity. He is concerned with the theory of composition, but he is also concerned with the theory of fun as well. I got the impression that, after decades of making music, Robinson is still surprised and delighted when music comes out of an instrument he is playing.
On this disk he plays dulcimer and kalimba. Because of their tuning around major pentatonic scales, these instruments give much of this recording its childlike character, as though there were a nursery rhyme or lullaby lurking within many of the tunes. Robinson also made some of the music with synthesizers, tape loops, and drums. Natural sounds recorded in some of San Diego’s back country give a few of the compositions a sort of earthy, natural character. Pots and pans and other “junk” that sound cool when you hit them with a stick also add to the soundscape of the disk.
A number of great musicians join Robinson on Music Bucket. Space doesn’t allow for a listing of them all, but they are all humdinger musicians doing humdinger music stuff. Of note is Carlos Olmeda lending his voice to “Yeah,” one of the few vocals on the disk; Dennis Caplinger plays his fiddle and mandolin; Tripp Sprague does some fine sax work; enfant terrible guitarist Mike Keneally does the enfant terrible guitarist thing on “November;” Chuck Elledge, on xylophone, brings a quality of candid openness to the upbeat “Tripletique;” and the mysterious quality of the groove-based “Cave Paintings” is enhanced by Doug Robinson’s piano.
If you’re straight-laced or conservative in your musical tastes, Music Bucket is not for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy people being truly creative and making fresh, enjoyable music, this disk is highly recommended. Like me, you will listen to it again and again.