Robert Starks has been playing and earning his way throughout the music world for decades now but there’s no sign of his creative yearning dying out. The new singles from Robert Starks and the Diamondtones Dance Band, “21st Century Grandma” and “Text-MEE-Baby” are very different songs on the surface but united by a shared sensibility. Starks’ music threads alternate influences through its compositional sound, but the guiding spirit of both tracks has a retro R&B cast that never fails the performer or listener. Neither song overextends the audience’s attention nor, furthermore, they sound like Starks and his band conceive these performances with their live show in mind as their ultimate destination.
Melodic values have a higher priority with the first song “21st Century Grandma”. The central melodic phrase for the song dominates much of the track but Starks and his fellow musicians wisely venture off that well-trod path for on point excursions adding to the overall performance rather than weighing it down with needless embellishments. The song’s lead guitar is especially active, but the same aforementioned lack of needless embellishments extends itself to the six-string work as well; it see-saws back and forth between surgical power and fiery lyricism throughout the entirety of the tune.
The sound for both singles is first rate. It is a bit more demure with the instrumental “21st Century Grandma” and it proves to be an effective move; the low-key setting for the first single allows us to appreciate it more without the production ever threatening to overwhelm you. I like the melody for “21st Century Grandma” a great deal; its instantly memorable without ever being too simple and makes its appeal direct to listeners rather than attempting to sound too clever.
The second single “Text-MEE-Baby” features a satisfying vocal firmly in the R&B camp, but the musical arrangement favors a funkier treatment than we ever heard from the earlier “21st Century Grandma”. The rhythm section is an undoubted star of this number; the bass playing, in particularly, provides all the hook this song will need to make a mark on listeners. The use of modern speak like “texting isn’t a gimmick; it’s reflective of the way modern lovers and practitioners of time-tested styles manage their continued viability. You sing about the world you live in; Robert Starks and the Diamondtones Dance Band do that quite well.
These two singles, taken together, provide listeners with a well-rounded view of Starks and his band’s substantial talents. They aren’t songs that you will tire of easily; each one has layers of riches to enjoy and they invite repeated hearings thanks to their hooks and clear presentation. Robert Starks and the Diamondtones Dance Band are closing their 2019 on an auspicious note with the release of these two singles and we can feel confident even greater music lies in the future. Longtime fans will find these two tracks affirm what brought them to the party while newcomers to Starks’ work will keep coming back for more with future releases.
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