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Guitar master and 'Australia's Got Talent' winner wows Normandy audience

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

(Photo)
Rising star Joe Robinson performed a blistering acoustic set Friday in Normandy, playing songs from his upcoming album, and enjoying the Bedford County hospitality.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely) [Order this photo]
Joe Robinson looks like just about any 20-year-old with a guitar and a dream of making it big.

However, in his case, "making it big" happened for this young Australian at an age when everyone else worries about getting their first date and passing their driving test.

Robinson entertained a small crowd Friday at the Normandy River Cafe, in a performance that had this reporter repeatedly picking his jaw off the floor. The young man from Down Under has a mastery of the six-string instrument I've only seen from seasoned veterans of the live stage.

But spending half your life playing the guitar has already made him a vet, and when Robinson speaks about a song he wrote when he was "very, very young," he's not kidding.

Prodigy

Joe started playing the piano when he was 6, only due to his fingers being too tiny for a guitar. But by the time he was 10, he picked up the instrument, and in less than a year had surpassed his instructor.

He continued his musical education by watching videos, and by the time he reached the age of 11, Joe began touring with different Australian artists, including his mentor Tommy Emmanual. When he was 13, Robinson won the Australian National Songwriting Competition, recording his first album entitled "Birdseed" in 2006, where he wrote all but two of the songs.

A little over a month after he turned 16, Joe won the Australia's Got Talent grand finale by performing Emmanual's arrangement of "Classical Gas," and his career hasn't stopped from there. He went to Nashville to record his 2009 album "Time Jumpin,'" moving to the Music City last year. His third album, "Let Me Introduce You," is set for release Jan. 20.

In the meantime, Robinson was named "Best New Talent" in Guitar Player magazine 2010 Reader's Poll, as well as being named the 2009 Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. He's also been keeping busy touring the world, and performed at Bonnaroo in 2010.

Influences

Joe had finished a gig in Nashville Thursday and was on his way to New Orleans with his mother and two brothers for a well-deserved vacation when he stopped by Normandy to play an astounding 40-minute set and sample the food. Getting the young guitar master booked here fell into place only late last week, owner Nikki Mitchell said.

Robinson told the T-G he was looking forward to spending quality time with his family, who he had not seen in eight months, before kicking off a tour of his homeland in January.

He's been living in Nashville for the past 18 months, and "loves it here."

"There's so many great musicians, it's such a stimulating place for me and I'm learning a lot by being here," Joe said.

YouTube videos from artists like Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher and Santana inspired him, but his biggest influence has been his mentor Emmanual, along with Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed.

"They're the guys I used to watch, and try to copy, just by watching and listening," he said.

But now, the stars he used to watch are taking notice of Robinson's musical chops. For example, how many 17-year-olds do you know who get to play with the man who invented the electric guitar, the legendary Les Paul?

"I've got to meet some of my favorite guitar players like Lee Ritenour ... it's been really fun," Joe said.

His latest album was recorded both in Nashville and Detroit, and while his first two efforts showcase his solo instrumental work, his latest release will feature his vocals, songwriting, electric guitar and a full band for the first time.


Joe Robinson - Out Alive by abcmusic


The Normandy audience got a good sample of the new material Friday, and if their reaction was any indication, it should be a solid hit.

Visited before

Joe found Normandy to be "really cool" but it turns out this isn't his first trip to Bedford County. He visited Bell Buckle four years ago, but his biggest memory was the communications barrier. Our southern drawl and his speech from Down Under didn't mix at first.

"The accents were so thick and everyone couldn't understand me, but it was so interesting, the people were so kind and friendly, it was an atmosphere that was really unique," Robinson remembered, and it reminded him of his home in Australia. He also commented that he wished his trip through our area was during the daylight so he could see the countryside.

Joe also said the Normandy visit reminded him a lot of home as well, with it's small town feel, and he said that the word about Bedford County's new musical showcase there is spreading to the artists in Nashville.

That was the case during Saturday's performance of Carter's Court, which is made up of three daughters of Waylon Jennings' road band The Waylors. Grammy Award nominated country music artist Jamey Johnson dropped in just to visit and watch the performance.

Perhaps Wartrace will be slated for Robinson's next visit, after Joe learned that the world-famous Gallagher Guitars are handmade there. Robinson currently plays a Maton guitar, an Australian brand.

"It's really fun to come to small towns like this, where people have never heard of me and just play for a new audience," Joe said. "It's a real low key, kind of relaxed atmosphere, and I really enjoy it."



On the web

http://www.joerobinson.com