Remember that funny bit of hyperbole that goes: "It's so good if you look in the dictionary under so-and-so and you'll find a picture of so-and-so" . Well, if you look in the dictionary under "Soul Blues" you'll find a picture of "Roy Roberts" (at least in a perfect world). Roberts exemplifies this music form, a healthy amalgam of Memphis Soul & Modern Electric Blues replete with real horns and stinging guitar licks. He's released 9 terrific records thus far, including one live and one "Best Of" but his new CD "Sicily Moon" is simply his best. A true Soul album. A contender for Album Of The Year for sure. Equally praiseworthy is his work as producer for records by Chick Willis, Lou Pride, Eddie Floyd, Floyd Miles, Priscilla Price and Tommy Thomas (see reviews at bottom of page).
Blues singer, guitarist, song writer, producer and label mogul Roy Roberts was born Oct. 22, 1942 in Livingston, TN. He first learned piano and gospel music with his mother but eventually he bought his first guitar, a “Sears Silver Tone”, and began playing R & B with a Greensboro Ponderosa club house band. There he had the opportunity to play in the same venue as legends like Clarence Carter, Joe Tex, Eddie Floyd, Dee Clark, Solomon Burke, and Otis Redding. He even was for a time part of Solomon Burke’s orchestra and later in Eddie Floyd's group (Some 30 years later Roy produced Eddie's comeback CD "To The Bone", released on Roy's Rock House Records imprint). Perhaps his greatest learning experience came in 1965 when he played guitar for the "Big O" Otis Redding! In honor of the departed legend Roy cut his very first single "The Legend Of Otis Redding" following Redding's tragic death. For a time he was on the road with his band as the Roy Roberts Experience throughout the late 60s and 70s until Disco reared it's ugly head and stalled the careers of many Soul, R & B & blues singers. But that didn't stop this musician because Roy Roberts went Country! (Take that Bee Gees!) He teamed up with C & W artist and friend O.B. McClinton and hit the road. Roy even threatens to cut a Country record soon. After McClinton’s death in 1989, Roy concentrated on gospel music . But one day while in the studio he heard a song on the radio that sounded a lot like himself..it was Robert Cray's "Phone Booth" and suffice it to say Roy was soon back to the blues...
"Country Star" (House Of Roton 197?)
1 Don't Come Running
"Introducing Roy Roberts" (New Moon 1994)
1. Me & My Baby
"A Woman Needs Love" (New Moon 1995)
1. My Baby Left Me
***Roberts style is heavy on rhythm (especially bass) and his blues soulful and laced with horns; weaving tight, tasty guitar licks. His production style is bottom heavy, rhythmic and breathy. Some of the standouts here are the pounding "Comin' Thru The Back Door" (also done by Lou Pride) and "A Woman Needs Love".
"Live" (New Moon 1995)
1 Jammin' With My Friends
"Every Shade Of Blue" (King Snake 1997)
1. I'll Understand
"Deeper Shade Of Blue" (King Snake 1999)
1. Let Me Help You Tonight
***1/2More Memphis-style R & B and soul/blues from Roberts. "Mr. DJ" (also done by Chick Willis) exhorts jocks to "let my record play" 'cause all he ever hears on the radio is "BB (King), Buddy (Guy) & Robert (Cray) everyday". The slinky soul blues "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" features some great guitar leads by Roy. Other goodies include "I'll Chase Your Blues Away," "Let Our Love Last Forever," and duets with Little Royal on "I've Been Makin' Love" and Priscilla Price on "We're Gonna Work It Out."
"Burnin Love" (Rock House 2001)
1. Burnin Love
****Roberts is truly at the peak of his powers now. The smoldering soul of title track ("Burnin' Love") alone would make this worth the purchase. "Can't Have It Your Way" is a fast blues with humorous line "this ain't Burger King and you can't have it your way". Roy delivers a very convincing vocal on Bobby Womack's classic "I'm In Love" but it's on his originals where he really shines. Call it Memphis soul/blues.
"Daylight With A Flashlight" (Rock House 2003)
1. Touched by
****1/2Roy Roberts has earned much acclaim in blues and deep soul circles mainly from his production work on albums by Chick Willis, Lou Pride, Priscilla Price, Sonny Rhodes, etc.., but he should get his due respect for his own recordings like this new masterpiece "Daylight With A Flashlight". With a songwriting and guitar sound like Robert Cray, Roy produces another flawless disc. Every cut is a winner from the party blues "Raise A Little Hell", Memphis soul of "Touched By An Angel" & "I Slipped" to the soulful blues " I Want To Love You". Roberts doesn't have a dynamic voice, say like Otis Clay, but it's deep breathy charm fits the bass n' horns backdrop with tasty guitar licks-heavy perfectly. Buy this one first.
"Partners And Friends" (Rock House 2004)
1. Don't Let This Love
***1/2Both Roy Roberts & Johnny Rawls are well-respected artists/producers/songwriters/guitarists/label owners- and obviously they are friends who wanted to record a project together. Both are masters of retro-soul blues, country soul, authentic R & B and deep southern soul. (go find Rawl's CD with LC Luckett called "Can't Sleep At Night" for a lost classic). The new disc "Partners And Friends" serves up 10 earnest, goodtime songs that will delight fans of either. Roberts had just released within the last year his best solo disc ("Daylight With A Flashlight") while Rawl's last project was a live CD that can only be found via the 'Net). All cuts on "Partners And Friends" are co-writes between Rawls & Roberts except for track 10 which is Roberts alone. The main highlights: "Don't Let This Love Slip Away", "Reach Out" & "Can't You See" are midtempo horn-fueled soul heaven. "You're The One For Me" another classic deep south slow burner with one of Roberts' best vocals ever. The blues shuffle "How Long" has Roberts & Rawls trading verses brilliantly. The Carolina "beach music" scene gets two new prospects with "Shaggin' Down In Carolina" & "Let's Go To The Beach". This is a no-brainer purchase for fans of this genre!
"Sicily Moon" (Rock House 2006)
1. Sicily Moon
****1/2 If Roy Roberts continues putting out music this good we're gonna have to crown him "King Of Soul/Blues". Horn-fueled, Hammond B-3, melodic Memphis soul heaven played by musicians not machines. I'm not sure who's the bigger star of this show- Roy with his simmering soul singing (especially on "I'm Gonna Love You") and songwriting or the "MoFo Horns" (Rusty Smith & Scott Adair). But wait, check out that bassline on "Turn That Thing Around" by Andrew "Feet" Taylor. Maybe it's the rhythm section who deserves the most props? Right now I'm like a kid in a whiskey store, um, candy store. Song after song "Sicily Moon" shines. Speaking of this lunar love, Mr. Roberts has legions of Italian fans and this gem is an homage to them. What's amazing to me is how Roy is still able to come with such strong new songs after releasing some 7 LPs and producing/composing a host of others for artists the likes of Eddie Floyd, Chick Willis, Lou Pride & Floyd Miles. For those in the know- remember how good Roy's song "Burnin' Love" is? Well, this is like having 9 more cuts of the same cloth! All hyperbole aside I'm unable to pick the best cuts here. They're all superb and this is the best Roy has ever sounded on the microphone! For the first time there's no straight blues cuts but instead there's a couple surprises. First, Roy transforms into Barry White on the sultry "Baby", dropping down an octave at times and then seducing you with breathy boudoir balladry. Roy must be in love. Once again the MoFo Horns carry this track into the stratosphere. Look out "Memphis Horns" these folks may be stealing some of yo' gigs. Make sure you listen to this record with headphones to hear all the nuances. Now track 10 is a definite wildcard, almost surreal. This is a cheeky (pun intended) little rap record called "Show Me What You Got"! Yes, Roy Roberts, the Soul/Blues master is rappin' over a James Brown-blessed groove with Brooklyn rapper Dana Dane! Yeah, "Double R & Double D" doing it street style, boyeeeee! What a hoot to hear a Roy song quote Whodini ("The Freaks Come Out At Night"). Now I'm no Hip Hop fan but this is cute, light-hearted fun but I don't want to give it too much credit less I encourage Roy to become a full-fledged rap artist! The liner notes explain that "Roy came up with the idea when he was playing a club and the young audience wasn't grooving to his sound. He got them up dancing". Hey, it works like dessert to one hearty Soul Food meal.
"By Request: The Best Of" (Rock House 2006)
1. I'll Understand
"Man With A Message" (RockHouse 2007)
1 Jesus is Knocking
***Roy Roberts has produced some of the best Soul Blues music the past decade (with real horns, guitar,B-3) but unfortunately he's been too soulful for the younger white audience and too bluesy for the younger black folk. Now that's a generalization but for the most part Blues/Rock with heavy guitar dominates the mainstream Blues market while "Party Blues" or "Southern Soul" mostly played on keyboards rules the Deep South. Well, here Roberts could care less as he'd created a Gospel album just like you'd expect (and hope) he would. Other than the "Amazing Grace/Pass Me Not/Take My Hand Precious Lord" medley the rest of the numbers are original. If you dig Roberts you'll dig this. It's mostly the same melodic, rhythmic Soul Blues only with call-and-response vocals and Biblical lyrics. Perhaps the opposite of what Ray Charles did in 1952 when he took church music and replaced the "oh Lord" with "oh baby". Here Roy's taking it back.
What makes this record especially successful? He will please Gospel traditionalists as well. You have authentic arrangements like that found on "I'll Let Nothing Separate Me", "Glory Glory" & "Working For Jesus". Conversely, Deep Soul fans should thrill on "Everyone Will Live Forever" & "He Lifts Me Up" and Blues fans might prefer the thumping roller "God Is Never Late". The wildcards though are the leadoff number, the retro-70s slightly Discofied "Jesus is Knocking", and the Country ballad (replete with steel guitar!) "Jesus Is the Best Thing". Hey Roy, after hearing this I'm actually looking forward to that Country album you've been threatening to drop.
Roy Roberts & Friends "Blues & Soul Review" (Rock House 2008)
1 If You Can't Put it Out-Roy Roberts
1 Got To Watch My Step
"Strange Love" (Ocean Beach 2011)
1. My Love Bone
Roy Roberts Johnny Rawls Barbara Carr "Three Pair" (Ocean Beach 2012)
1 Don't Let Our Love Slip Away
"Anthology Of Soul & Blues" (Rockhouse)
1. We Still Together
"Roy Roberts Experience" (Perfect Toy 2017)
I'm Number One (I Want Your Crown Mr. Brown)
"Back In Love" (Rockhouse 2018)
1 Back In Love
"Hands On The Music" (Rockhouse 2018)
1 Angels Touched Me - Tony Drake