"The greatest American songwriter you've never heard”-Russell Means

It was the early part of 2004 that "Fortune Teller" was released. The song, and the album from which it was pulled, enjoyed heavy airplay on Native American radio crossing over to Americana and college radio for the remainder of that summer and into fall. A second single, "Everything But Answers", propelled the album to linger for the remainder of that year. By January 2005, Richmond found he was nominated for three Native American Music Awards and had the best selling album of the year in that genre.

 

Hardly an overnight sensation, Richmond had been writing for decades and first appears on a charity CD released in 2003 titled "The Christmas Wish" (he also co-wrote the title track). Performing what would ultimately be his only released cover version, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" (written by Roy Wood), the song enjoyed annual holiday airplay on college radio in the U.S. and the British Isles. Following that, the four-track "Fortune Teller" e.p. (which featured live-in-the-studio stripped down versions of both the title track and "Angel In Chains" ) was released just before the holidays.

 

In autumn of 2004 Richmond holed up with native legend Jim Boyd in Spokane and began recording what was to be the follow-up album. After which, he returned to Detroit and continued to write and record with 15 songs either demoed or completed before he seemingly vanished from the landscape.

 

Meanwhile, "Sour Milk Moon" was remixed and released in the UK in early 2005 where it became a cult favorite. Nothing more was heard until 2008 when a three song digital release appeared on i-Tunes including two titles from the Jim Boyd sessions and a demo ( "Ever Since The Rain Came" ) that was originally intended for the proposed "Learning To Die" follow up that never saw release. In 2014  a single was announced ( "Oklahoma" / "Revival Tent" )  and even bequeathed a catalogue number, but never materialized. Months later, "Three Dollar Coffee"- a track from the aforementioned unreleased second album- appeared in digital formats.


Richmond returned to writing in early 2014 and again in 2016, completing nearly forty new songs. A compilation album, "Almost Just-The Robert Richmond Story,  was released, while in the background he started recording again. He released a single ("Summer Girl") and a benefit single for Leonard Peltier ("Song For Leonard") with his friend, the late John Trudell, appearing via the magic of digital technology and then the much heralded "Alone" single and the appropriately titled "Things Have Changed" album in 2017.


Things may have changed, but they have hardly slowed creatively. A single, titled "Jo," was released 10 August to herald the upcoming self-titled release- "Robert Richmond." Never one to stand still artistically, yes, the new album leads us down some previously avoided dark paths; but Richmond offers up a few introspective tracks unlike anything his past efforts have dared to share.

Right out of the box, with, "Just Left Of Eden" - which addresses dealing with getting older and "tearing off the calendar pages" - you know this is going to be a personal journey. While that in itself would be intriguing, you're going to some far corners-both dark and light- that he hasn't revealed previously. The first single, "Jo," follows the opening track and if you haven't heard it by now, it's pure Richmond with a clever guitar riff laying the foundation for his final words to an...old friend?...lover? Hurt and confused, he nevertheless sends "Jo" on her way. Conversely, "The Girl With The Polka Dot Dress" comes from a happier, more contented and relaxed perspective. A simple song with an equally simple arrangement about a grandfather's love for his granddaughter.


While in the traveling frame of mind, you get to ride shotgun with Robert and his sidekick on a motoring adventure in Oklahoma in search of the ominous "girl who works at the smoke shop."  Like the album itself, Richmond is driving, and you might as well sit back and let the road take you where it will go.



"Casey's Garden" was the last track completed for the album and may or may not be about Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who was tried but found innocent of murdering her daughter. As usual, no judgement is passed but the chorus is quick to remind that all of us have some things in common.



On the other hand, judgment is passed as Richmond serves as judge, jury and self-executioner while dishing out a bit of tongue-in-cheek advice in "Broken Man Blues (Many Roads)." Is there any truth to be had here? As usual, you'll have to decide for yourself as, in his own way, he tells you what he thinks you need to know without telling you what he actually thinks.


-Billy Sullivan, September 2018