"...I adored her concert. Just perfection. So Real and authentic with
much depth of soul and creative integrity ....she is one of the few
people I really want to go see. Made me so happy to hear her".--Boston
Robin O'Herin Found Her Calling Singing The Blues
Berkshire Eagle Article by Jeremy D. Goodwin
Robin O’Herin was a graphic designer, attending
a seminar on time management skills, when she had a revelation. The leader
of the seminar asked participants to imagine themselves at 90 years old, sitting
on a rocking chair and reflecting on what they never had time to do.
"Oh my gosh," O’Herin imagined herself saying, "I forgot
to be a blues musician!"
So she set out to change that. Though she’d been a music lover since
childhood days, and enjoyed playing guitar in her spare time, she set about
recording an album and booking gigs. Her growing acumen, as well as economic
circumstances, propelled her shift into full-time musician status.
"Within a year I had released my first CD, and I was laid off from my
art director job. I always had guitars in my life and I always played guitars,
but I started taking it very seriously," O’Herin recalls in a telephone
interview from her home in Lee. She wrote a business plan, picked up some freelance
jobs and committed herself to her music career.
Playing a mix of acoustic blues, folk and Gospel -- including songs by legends
of the genre as well as original tunes written in the classic style -- O’Herin
plays the Gypsy Joynt Café Saturday night at 8.
She released CDs in 2002 and 2003, and started gigging regularly, playing
shows and folk festivals on the east coast, Midwest and Europe. She’s
also been active with nonprofits using music as an educational tool, she
says, including Guitars in the Classroom, Raising the Blues, and the Berkshire-based
Music in Common.
"It’s been proven, music just makes your brain work better. You
can learn math better. You can learn language skills better. If you have an
hour of music before math class you’ll be more alert, you’ll get
it. Test scores go up," she says.
O’Herin first fell in love with artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins,
Blind Willie McTell and Muddy Waters as a child borrowing her father’s
old 78-rpm records. Later, a compilation of relatively unknown gospel singers "changed
[my] life," she says, and added another offshoot of American music to
Her lifelong love was evident early on, she says, though it took a while
to figure out how to pursue it.
"I think I was born to be a musician. It’s just that my family didn’t
get that," she says. "I think they just didn’t understand that
it was a viable career choice. So instead I went to school for fine art, which
isn’t much better!"
She doesn’t relate too closely, artistically speaking, with folk-oriented
singer/songwriter types. Instead, O’Herin pens original tunes that
come straight from the tradition of Delta blues and gospel. Less prominent,
but still in the mix, is Appalachian old-time music. ("Appalachian music
is white, mountain-people blues," she says good-naturedly.) Her bottleneck
guitar style sounds vintage. In a setlist spanning from the Robert Johnson
chestnut "Walkin’ Blues" to the original gospel-influenced
number "Redemption Road," it can be tough to tell where the history
yields to innovation.
She began playing upwards of 150 shows a year, she says, before she was slowed
in recent years by Lyme disease. She’s been recovering, though, and
by her count jumped from 40 to 110 gigs last year. Now she’s planning
her first major tour in a couple years, traveling down to Florida and back.
She’s also working on another album.
O’Herin has also created presentations for student linking the blues
with other cultural phenomena, like poetry and the Harlem Renaissance. She
and Berkshire dancer/choreographer Stephanie Webber have also developed a
performance/lesson on the intersection between blues and tap dance; their
next one will be Feb. 17 at the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee. (The night before,
she hosts the first of three monthly open mic nights at the same venue.)
These ways of melding education, musical history and live music also come
through in O’Herin’s performances, where she’s fond of
clueing audiences in to the original of a given song or the history of a
"It just feels more authentic and personal than a stadium concert," she
says. "I’ll get people to sing with me on some songs. A lot of what
I do is based on the call-and-response mode of spirituals, which grew into
gospel and then grew into blues. It feels more interactive. I feel really connected
to an audience and they feel that connection, so they respond to that. It’s
more than a performance."
“You are the most requested performer that
people want back...”
- Douglas Library Acoustic Series
About The Road Home:
"There was historically a close relationship
between blues and spiritual music, and Robin OHerin makes
the connection tangible on The Road Home, her second
CD. OHerin calls the music that straddles the blues/gospel
divide holy blues, as good a term as any for the rootsy
but serene music on her second CD, the follow-up to her debut, Red,
White and Blues. The all-acoustic CD is mostly an intimate
solo affair featuring OHerins deft guitar playing and
soulful vocals, but a few Berkshire musicians lend a hand, including
pianist Peter Schneider, bassist Dan Broad, percussionist Terry
Hall and vocalists Vikki True, Lisa Kantor and LuAnn Herring." Seth
Rogovoy, The Beat, 11-21-03
“wonderful guitar playing. soulful vocals. music to relax your
ears from over produced music.”
—Fishermansblues Radio, Markus Fischer, Germany
"The Road Home is subtitled “Holy
Blues And Gospel”, and like Red, White and Blues you
get a mixture of O’Herin’s traditional influences on
both originals and covers. Blind Willie Johnson was one of O’Herin’s
major influences, so we are treated to three songs associated with
the master; the intoxicating intimacy of her vocals meshing seamlessly
with her slide on a haunting Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning and God
Don’t Never Change, and adding plaintiveness laced with
grit on Nobody’s Fault But Mine, and Mississippi John
Hurt’s Glory, Glory. Wayfaring Stranger reminds
me of the work of Linda Tillery, O’Herin’s clear and
evocative tone and richly melodic harmonies underpinned by Dan Broad’s
reverberating bass lines and Terry Hall’s finger popping percussion; I
Am A Pilgrim has a jug-band feel to it’s rhythms accentuated
by Schneider’s jaunty piano, LuAnn Herring’s reverential
harmonies providing an intimate counterpoint; whilst Blessed
Are They comes replete with some beautifully understated hypnotic
slide. A haunting acapella rendition of Guide me O Great Jehovah,
and two lilting renditions of Psalm 23 (one vocal, one instrumental)
are further highlights of this fine set."
Mick Rainford, The Blues in Britain, 12-03
She turns in a mesmerising performance with ... her excellent guitar
—by David Blue http://www.netrhythms.co.uk
to read the complete article click here.
"This is my second
musical voyage on the Robin O’Herin train. I have to say straight
away, I am just as pleased with this trip as the last. The Road Home
is thirteen acoustic blues and gospel tracks taken from the book
of traditional and blues spirituals.
O’Herin is an exceptional vocalist and guitar player that seems
to be in her best element performing these songs.
She has the right timbre in her voice and her six-string prowess is
more than evident throughout this recording."
"Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck,
wanted to tell you that your CD is ... addictive !!! I want to
keep playing it. I really love it alot .. I walk away singing those
great songs in my head. How it ties us together with Christians
from the past . Thank you for such a Project that you and all involved
have completed with such excellence." So.
"I just wanted to send along a note of congratulations
for finishing your new CD, it's great!! I feel your music is very
special because not only is it sweet to listen too, but I also
feel that you are a historian preserving and passing along some
very rich music from the past which brings out the spiritual roots
of the blues and some popular music as well."So.
About Red, White and Blues:
David Blue, UK Reviewer
read the complete article click here.
"...Bottleneck blues, Gospel and lots of strong
folk originals from Boston-based OHerin, who accompanies her
Appalachian edged, rein-free vocals with some creative, dancing fingerpickin..." GvonT,
SingOut! Fall 2003
read the complete article click here.
"Red, White and
Blues comes with the sub-title “blues, gospel and originals
done in the tradition of the country blues”, which is a perfect
description of the music on offer. O’Herin’s vocals
have a natural ambience with these styles, evoking a warmth and
sincerity which brings a palpable poignancy to numbers like Hold
On, accentuated by her lilting slide and Peter Schneider’s
Fender Rhodes keyboard, whilst her own vocals and the harmonies
of Vikki True add a strong spiritual feel." Mick
Rainford, The Blues in Britain, 12-03
read the complete article click here.
"...OHerin keeps things appealingly bluesy,
due in no small part to her accomplished fingerpicking..." Bill
McGowan, The Boston Blues News, Mar-Apr, 2003
"...Punctuated by beautiful harmonies and intricate
guitar, Red, White and Blues is a country blues and folk mix of old
standards and originals that would make Mississippi John Hurt and
Lead Belly proud..." Bill McGowan, The
Boston Blues News, Mar-Apr, 2003
to read the complete article
"Red, White and Blues" is an easy-going, laid-back
effort, a tribute to tradition that extends that tradition forward
in a personal vein. It also highlights O'Herin's deft fingerpicking
and slide-guitar work on numbers like Willie Moore's "Old Country
and her committed vocals on "Abilene" and a few humorous, original
tunes, including "Junkfood Junkie Blues" and "The Driving Song (Commuter
Blues)." Seth Rogovoy, The Beat, Berkshires
Week, October 10, 2002
to read the complete article
This is a fine collection of blues songs and
the theme is eclectic, so if you happen to enjoy many different
styles of the genre you are in for a treat.
Hannaleck July 9, 2003 Rating: ****
to read the complete review
OHerin is backed by a selection of fine
musicians. The recorded sound is good and OHerin comes across
as a musician who knows her stuff.
Not bad, not bad at all.©Bill
read the complete review click here.
this CD is quite wonderful. I have a boom box in the kitchen and this
is where I listen to music most often. Your CD is in my stack of kitchen
favorites!Berkshire MA fan
Thanks for the wonderful Christmas show I just
watched on channel 16 Pittsfield. I think it was the nicest Christmas
show I saw all year Pittsfield
Love your CD, haven't had it out of my car since
I got it. Mike Johnston
, fan from Kansas
Everytime I listen to Brian's Song
I cry. I have been listening to the cd over and over...another
I have tons of CDs with one or two
good songs on them, but I love every song on Red, White and BluesAnne
Delgrande, Berkshire Fan
Part of O’'Herin’s magic comes from the
fact that her music is steeped in musical, cultural and national history
and tradition. Her music has mostly been shaped by contemporary
blues and folk masters like Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt,
Bessie Smith, Blind Willie Johnson, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Leo Kottke. Ken
Tor read the complete review, click here: http://www.creatorsweb.com/robinoherin.htm
That last song (Precious Lord) was
so good I didn't want it to end!So. Hadley, MA fan at
We hear a lot of Christian music, and after a while
it all blends together, but we stopped to listen to you and we loved
Fan at Christian Music Fest, So. Hadley, MA June, 2003
“Your music is really beautiful.
Full of spirit and joy.”
—Przemek Draheim, Poland
Heartfelt, fun, home-cooked bluesRobby
Keep singing, girl, you rock! And I love your
guitar playing!Vikki True,
photo by Thaddeus
B. Kubis ©2002 www.tbkphotos.com