LEGENDARY SONGWRITER AND MUSICIAN TO BE JOINED BY THE ROOTS FOR “LET LOVE REIGN” OFF NEW ALBUM SINEMATIC
02 OCTOBER 2019 (TORONTO, ON) – Robbie Robertson will return to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon tonight, October 2, for his first network TV performance in eight years. The legendary songwriter and musician will be joined by The Roots for “Let Love Reign,” the acclaimed new single from his just-released album Sinematic.
Sinematic was inspired by Robertson’s decades of creating and composing music for film and is filled with gripping tales of villainy and vice, mobsters and gangsters embroiled in corruption and crime, melancholy stories about destruction and devastation and a pair of deeply personal songs about The Band and the youthful dream that launched his wildly successful six decade-long career. The evocative 13-song collection, which plays like a series of mini movies, builds on Robertson’s celebrated solo works while pushing his songwriting into exciting new sonic territory.
Sinematic has received rave reviews:
“An album of story-songs set to the sort of diaphanously blues-rock that characterizes Robertson’s sleek, expansive film music… Robertson’s guitar is a voice that always rings true.” – Rolling Stone
“The Band legend’s first solo album since 2011 is a blockbuster.” – MOJO
“The music sounds great, dark and ambient: a rootsy industrial palette.” – Uncut
“‘Dead End Kid,’ which offers a middle finger (and some smoldering guitar licks) to all the people who thought the young Robertson would ‘probably end up in prison/Or maybe down on the skids.’” – Toronto Star
“With his effortlessly cool croon, Robertson is both reflective and resolute in his storytelling over Sinematic's 13 tracks.” – Exclaim
“Robertson is dialed-in when taking a bittersweet look back at his days with The Band in‘Once Were Brothers.’” – Associated Press
“a slinky, noir-ish feel” – The National Post
“The album’s title accurately describes the visual aspects this music conjures.” – American Songwriter
“A highly creative album that only Robertson could deliver.” – Glide Magazine
Robertson drew inspiration for Sinematic from his recent film score writing and recording for director Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited organized crime epic, The Irishman, as well as the feature documentary film, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, based on his 2016 New York Times bestselling memoir “Testimony". The documentary, which opened the Toronto International Film Festival to widespread praise earlier this month, will receive a theatrical release in 2020 by Magnolia Pictures who acquired the film for worldwide distribution following the premiere.
“I was working on music for ‘The Irishman’ and working on the documentary, and these things were bleeding into each other,” says Robertson of the impetus for Sinematic. “I could see a path. Ideas for songs about haunting and violent and beautiful things were swirling together like a movie. You follow that sound and it all starts to take shape right in front of your ears. At some point, I started referring to it as ‘Peckinpah Rock’,” a nod, Robertson says, to Sam Peckinpah, the late director of such violent Westerns as “The Wild Bunch.”
Sinematic opens with “I Hear You Paint Houses”, featuring the devilish invitation from Robertson, “Shall we take a little spin/To the dark side of town?,” that sets the album’s stage for these noirish, cinematic vignettes. Drawn from Scorsese’s film, The Irishman, and the book it’s based on, Charles Brandt’s “I Heard You Paint Houses” about confessed hit man Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, the song is a riveting duet with Van Morrison that features bright guitar and a blithe tone that belies its chilling lyrics (mob code for hiring a hit man, painting houses refers to spattering walls with blood). The song will be featured in “The Irishman” alongside Sinematic’s emotional closing track “Remembrance”, which will play during the film’s end credits.
Narrated in Robertson’s cool parched croon, the yarns unspool over his vibrant guitar stylings and a bedrock of moody, midtempo rock, anchored on most tracks by bassist Pino Palladino (John Mayer Trio, The Who), drummer Chris Dave (D’Angelo, Adele), and keyboardist Martin Pradler, who also mixed the record. The band is rounded out with Afie Jurvanen, who provides guitar and backing vocals, along with vocalist Felicity Williams, a regular collaborator with Jurvanen in his band Bahamas. Robertson is joined on the album by special guest vocalists Van Morrison, Glen Hansard, Citizen Cope, J.S. Ondara, and Laura Satterfield; musicians Jim Keltner, Derek Trucks, Frédéric Yonnet, and Doyle Bramhall II; and producer Howie B who provides throbbing electronic textures to several tracks.
On “Dead End Kid”, one of Sinematic’s many standouts, Robertson turns the lens inward as he recalls some of the obstacles and low expectations he faced as a youth as a member of a First Nation and Jewish gangster family. “When I was growing up in Toronto, I was telling people, ‘One of these days I’m going to make some music and go all over the world,’” Robertson said. “Everyone was like, that’s never going to happen. You’re a dead end kid. Because my relatives were First Nation people and Jewish gangsters, it was assumed my dreams were going to explode. I found strength in overcoming that disbelief.” Wielding his guitar like a dangerous weapon, he demonstrates the breathtaking playing skills that caused a frenzy on Bob Dylan’s notorious 1966 electric tour and that helped to birth the Americana genre. Robertson’s defiant lyrics recall his teenage dream to play his music around the globe: “I want to show the world/Something they ain’t never seen/I want to take you somewhere/You ain’t never been.” Robertson’s raspy vocal is perfectly complemented by Glen Hansard’s soulful, soaring voice. The acclaimed Irish vocalist of The Frames, The Swell Season, and star of the film “Once,” Hansard resurfaces on Sinematic’s spirited rocker “Let Love Reign”, inspired by John Lennon’s call for peace.
Throughout the album, Robertson takes listeners through a colorful tour of society’s seedy underbelly. “Shanghai Blues” is a vivid saga examining China’s notorious Green Gang mobster Du Yuesheng, who dominated opium, gambling and prostitution operations in the early 20th century. More crime and mystery unfold in the moody “Sinphony”, “Street Serenade”. The edgy, electronic “The Shadow” is a nostalgic homage to Orson Welles’ entrancing radio crime drama.
Robertson’s guitar playing takes center stage on two instrumental tracks, “Wandering Souls” and the album’s string-laden closer, “Remembrance”, written for his late friend, Microsoft co-founder and music lover Paul Allen. Robertson enlisted Allen’s guitar heroes Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II, plus drummer Jim Keltner, for the grand and melancholy elegy.
While many of the songs on Sinematic focus on sinful themes far removed from Robertson, he draws from his own extraordinary life story for the track, “Once Were Brothers”, a bittersweet reflection on The Band, written for the new documentary of the same name. Robertson is joined on the track by Nairobi native J.S. Ondara and American singer/songwriter Citizen Cope. Mournful strains of a harmonica and organ play as Robertson relates The Band’s farewell, singing “Once were brothers/Brothers no more.” Of the song, Robertson says, “There is war and conflict involved. Writing it hurt inside sometimes, but those experiences can be rewarding in the emotional outcome. It hurt but I loved it.”
Inspired by Robertson’s acclaimed 2016 autobiography, “Testimony,” director Daniel Roher’s Once Were Brothers is a confessional, cautionary, and sometimes humorous tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band. The compelling film blends rare archival footage, photography, iconic songs, and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal, Dominique Robertson, and Ronnie Hawkins. Made in conjunction with Imagine Documentaries, White Pine Pictures, Bell Media Studios, and Universal Music Canada’s Shed Creative, the project is executive produced by Martin Scorsese; Imagine Entertainment chairmen Brian Grazer and Ron Howard; Justin Wilkes and Sara Bernstein for Imagine Documentaries; White Pines Pictures’ president Peter Raymont, and COO Steve Ord; Bell Media president, Randy Lennox; Jared Levine; Michael Levine; Universal Music Canada president and CEO Jeffrey Remedios; and Shed Creative’s managing director Dave Harris. The film is produced by Andrew Munger, Stephen Paniccia, Sam Sutherland, and Lana Belle Mauro.
Enhancing Sinematic’s film noir thrust is a suite of multimedia images that Robertson created, including artwork for the cover and each individual song. Listeners are brought even further into his Sinematic world with a series of striking portraits and abstract images, ranging from expressionist paintings to experimental photography. In one depiction, a photo of Robertson’s Walther 9mm pistol, “the same gun James Bond used,” is drenched in crimson and gold, juxtaposed next to a menacing figure. In another, paint seeps into a textured canvas as if it’s been burned in. The art is included in the Standard Edition’s CD and LP booklet and displayed even more elegantly in the Deluxe Edition’s lavish 12”x12” casebound hardcover book. Available October 25, the Deluxe Edition presents the album on CD and 180-gram 2LP vinyl with a 36-page hardcover book.
For fans who would like to own a piece of the artwork, four images – the Sinematic album cover, “Beautiful Madness”, “Shanghai Blues”, and “Walk In Beauty Way” – are available for purchase as archival-quality, framed canvas prints in a limited run of 100 for each. Ten canvas prints of the album’s cover art will be signed by Robertson with proceeds benefiting the American Indian College Fund. To view and order the images, visit: https://RobbieRobertson.lnk.to/Sinematic
Follow Robbie Robertson:
SINEMATIC CD/DIGITAL TRACK LIST
SINEMATIC 2LP VINYL TRACK LIST
Stephanie Horak, Universal Music Canada | 416-718-4240 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Burnatowski, Universal Music Canada | 416-718-4024 | Valerie.email@example.com
Tim Plumley, UMe | 310-865-7797 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sujata Murthy, UMe | 310-865-7812 | email@example.com
Jennifer Ballantyne, UMe | 310-865-2350 | firstname.lastname@example.org