Robin O' Acoustic Blues, Gospel and Original Music

Robin O'Herin in between songs

"...I adored her concert. Just perfection. So Real and authentic with so
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 Fan

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 repertoire.
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 favorite artist.
"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 O’Herin makes the connection tangible on “The Road Home”, her second CD. O’Herin 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 O’Herin’s 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 playing.
by David Blue
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, 2-04

"Just 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. Hadley Fan

"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. Hadley Fan

About Red, White and Blues:

“Gospel-tinged blues...”
— David Blue, UK Reviewer
to read the complete article click here.

"...Bottleneck blues, Gospel and lots of strong folk originals from Boston-based O’Herin, who accompanies her Appalachian edged, rein-free vocals with some creative, dancing fingerpickin..." — GvonT, SingOut! Fall 2003
to 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
to read the complete article click here.

"...O’Herin 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 click here.

"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 Rock" 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 click here.

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.
©Keith MuzikMan Hannaleck July 9, 2003 Rating: ****
to read the complete review click here.

O’Herin is backed by a selection of fine musicians. The recorded sound is good and O’Herin comes across as a musician who knows her stuff.
Not bad, not bad at all.©Bill Yates,
to 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 MA fan

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 midwest fan

I have tons of CDs with one or two good songs on them, but I love every song on Red, White and Blues—Anne 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 Mowery,
Tor read the complete review, click here:

That last song (Precious Lord) was so good I didn't want it to end!—So. Hadley, MA fan at a concert

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 it.
—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 blues—Robby Baier

Keep singing, girl, you rock! And I love your guitar playing!Vikki True, jazz singer

Robin O'Herin's Taylor guitar
photo by Thaddeus B. Kubis ©2002