From the first notes of Michael Robertson’s debut CD, it’s clear that the singer / guitarist is a skilled storyteller. The Michigan native has a knack for recognizing irony when exploring the nuances of unremarkable – yet universal – life experience. Robertson crafts songs that blend modern Americana with country and rock flavors, and his vocals go down smooth, with a tinge of world-weariness that fits the lyrics. While he’s a fiercely talented musician, his instincts favor measured restraint over brazen flash.
You’ve likely seen Robertson onstage over the years. He spent a dozen years with Maybe August and currently heads a side project, Robertson Bros. Band (with brother Scott) as well as handling guitar duties for Honesty and the Liars. (Singer Honesty Elliott returns the favor here, contributing lilting harmonies throughout the record.) Given Robertson’s skill on the fretboard, there is the inevitable flow of additional side projects.
For such a formidable talent, there can be only one pressing question: Why did it take Michael Robertson 30 years to release his debut solo CD?
The nine selections on “All My Stories,” released in June 2016, detail Robertson’s musical journey with vivid precision. From the breezy pace that propels the opening title track, Robertson is firmly in the driver’s seat, crafting sunny melodies that are accentuated by his ability to decelerate and allow the moment to linger.
Case in point is the lusciously languid “It’s Not What You Think,” which has Robertson milking the notes from his slide guitar with unhurried precision. The message of the song is driven home by the cliché-shattering refrain, “It is what it is, but it’s not what you think.” There’s even a stripped-down treatment of the Maybe August gem “Sale on Salvation,” a welcome inclusion alongside the album’s newer songs.
It’s often said that a good song can be done in any style and still effortlessly communicate its message. Robertson has succeeded here as well. The album’s closing bookend is a precious acoustic take of “All My Stories,” which bears scant resemblance to its predecessor.
Summing up his musical journey, Robertson says, “I’ve had the great fortune to belong to a community of friends and musicians who have helped me move in the direction I was supposed to go rather than the direction I thought I was going.”
If you ever needed an excuse to hop in the car and take off on the open road with no particular place to go, “All My Stories” will get you there, offering a display of roadside attractions of the human condition for you to absorb along the way.
Robertson is currently booking gigs in support of the new record, and you may see him solo, with a duo, or accompanied by a full band, depending on the venue.