CD Review: Robbing Johnny “Cold March”

Robbing Johnny is a New York-based Rock band whose music falls into the Americana category. The band mixes Rock and Roll, Folk, some Hip Hop tendencies and other elements together to create their sound; a style they have termed Bodega Folk Rock.

The band of Robbing Johnny consists of: Pat D Robinson- Vocals, Lyrics; John Murrell- Piano, Guitar, Vocals; Evan Harris- Guitar; John MaHoney- Bass; and Jordan Brooks- Drums, Percussion, Piano. This quintet had previously released a few singles and EPs but recently, the band had released their first official album. That album is entitled Cold March.

Cold March from Robbing Johnny was created as more of a Rock Opera than a straight-forward album. The nine tracks that are featured on the release follow the main character as he discovers that he must find a new place to live and thus, moves to the big city of New York. And to help bring this story to life, the album comes complete with a series of Prose chapters along with pictures. The complete storyline can be found on the band’s Tumblr profile.

The album of Cold March from Robbing Johnny begins with the track “Sylvia” and follows the man known as Johnny as he finds a place to call his own. It is there that he meets up with a man known as Robin. The track begins with a gentle pace played on the acoustic guitar with some violin in the background. The beginning of the track falls more into the Folk category than anything else. Soon, however, the rest of the band joins in and the track picks up steam and becomes a full-blown Rock and Roll track with a large Folk influence at the center of it with a much quicker pace. The “Sylvia” track could easily stand on its own and become the first single on the album.

Cold March from Robbing Johnny continues with the title track of the release. “Cold March” refers to the time of year as Johnny begins to experience what it’s like to live in New York. Like the previous track, “Cold March” begins with a slow, gentle pace to the track along with a slight Blues influence before the band adds a lot more energy to the Acoustic Rock. The track combines Blues, Rock and Hip Hop together to create a track that has a very strong groove the music. Ultimately, the song sounds a lot like something that could have been produced by the band Rusted Root with a lot more of a Hip Hop vibe to it.

“Red Bird in the City” finds the band changing styles as the track takes on a Jazz-like musical delivery mixed into their Acoustic Rock before the track enters a stronger Rock and Roll feel. The lyrical delivery alternates between singing and rapping as the track describes Johnny finding omens everywhere he looked, which included a red bird. The switching of musical styles within the track makes “Red Bird in the City” one of the more unique moments on the album.

Speaking of Jazz, the track “Grandfather’s Jacket” finds Robbing Johnny once again creating a track featuring a Jazz-infused track. The track’s lyrics deal with Johnny finding a piece of clothing that had belonged to his dead grandfather and remembering the times they used to have together. The track begins with the piano from Jordan Brooks as the focal point. Before long, the track’s music becomes a lot fuller with the addition of the rest of the band which includes the use of horns. The track ultimately feels like something that may have been created by the band Chicago.

With the track “Highbridge Park,” Robbing Johnny creates one of the more straight-out Rock and Roll songs on their new Cold March release. The track begins and revolves around the piano but also contains a strong electric guitar presence to give the track a fuller sound. With that mix, the track sounds like a mix between something from Blues Traveler (minus John Popper’s harmonica) and Steve Winwood. “Highbridge Park” is easily one of the most commercial tracks on the album.

With the track of “Summer Sux,” Robbing Johnny creates one of the most unique tracks on the album. The storyline finds Johnny walking through the park and finding the red bird he had spotted earlier now slowly dying. Johnny makes a grave for the bird and places it inside. The music for “Summer Sux” is piano-based and would easily fall into the musical category of “Pop Standards” alongside music from such artists as Tony Bennett or Harry Connick, Jr. In fact, while “Summer Sux” contains lyrics that may not be all that upbeat, the song as a whole would easily fit into Connick’s style.

One of the more unusual tracks on the Cold March release from Robbing Johnny is the song “Worms in the Soil”. Story-wise, the track brings Johnny’s story to a close as he and his new friend Robin bury the bird and leaves the park. Musically, the track is the most diverse of any of the tracks that make up the Cold March release. The track begins with music that brings to mind an Old-Timey feel to the music because of the mandolin and the vocals style of the band. Then, it effortlessly switches to a Folk-Rock feel with the addition of guitar. Before long, that Folk-Rock feel is left far behind as the entire group creates a Mungo Jerry-inspired sound that mixes a Blues and Jug Band sound with Robbing Johnny’s Folk-Rock sound to create one of the strongest musical moments on the entire release.

After eight album tracks that blend Johnny’s story together with an ever-changing musical background, the band brings the entire to a close with “Cold March Reprise”. Like every other track that came before, “Cold March Reprise” contains its own sound and feel. Yes, it does recall the “Cold March” track in lyrical content, but that’s it as the song is sung a’capella by the members of the band in a style that brings to mind something from Calypso great Harry Belafonte. The unusual approach on this track helps to bring the entire release to a close on a rather unique note.

Cold March from Robbing Johnny is a strong release that changes musical directions throughout the nine tracks that make up the album. The ever-changing styles show off the talent of each and every member of the band. That change in style also helps to keep the pace of the album moving while keeping the listener entertained throughout the entire length of the release. The strong musical tracks plus the inclusion of the storyline and artwork that goes along with it makes the Cold March release from Robbing Johnny a lot more than just a musical experience; the project as a whole is an adventure for many of your senses.

For a taste of the music from Robbing Johnny, check out their song “Sylvia“.

The complete storyline for the Cold March release can be found on the band’s Tumblr profile. 

For more information, check out the band’s PR Firm, Whiplash PR.

Cold March from Robbing Johnny can be found on the band’s Soundcloud profile. Click on the album cover below:

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