Scott Robinson:

A Remembrance

By Bill Ede

Two concerts I attended during Rick Towles' period of involvement with the booking details of Twice-Told coffeehouse struck me as particularly mind-blowing. One was a sparsely attended performance by Western Kentuckian Chris Knight; the other was a better-attended evening with Frankfortian Scott Robinson. Both performances struck me as strong examples of what I refer to as "quantity of the quality" - that is, seemingly endless performances of well-crafted songs, one right after the other.

Scott Robinson was a truly remarkable performer who had a batch of fine songs that rivalled the best. I likened his Mellow Drama debut CD to John Prine's first release - the highest compliment I could think of, and one I haven't used for anyone else before or since. The tune "Thieves" is the obvious standout, but there are so many others as well: "Song of The Bird," "Catherine the Great," "Old Fashioned Girl," "Little Thief." I rank "Chance to Dream" right up there with Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night" and "Sweeter Music" surpasses everything else I've heard (even Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin'") in its unflinching focus. "Shadow of a Doubt" is nakedly beautiful in its portrayal of a struggling love - a subject too personal, perhaps, for that first Prine album.

Scott Robinson - 1957 - 2002

I didn't get to know Robinson that well, but I admired him from the first time I heard him in one of Dan Gediman's "In the Round" showcases at the Twice Told. Envy is not a trait I like to admit to, but I felt it big time toward Scott, whose songwriting seemed like such an effortless extension of himself. Songwriting has always seemed like such hard work for me: little did I know the battles that Scott was fighting that helped keep his songwriting so - if you will - "on tap." There were the predictable "marital difficulties" at one point but he also kept steady company with a bipolar condition (formerly referred to as manic-depression) that may have helped facilitate his songwriting by keeping his demons in focus but must have made the everyday tasks of living utterly unbearable at times..

I got a glimpse of these struggles when I drove to a venue, St. George and the Dragon, in downtown Frankfort on the evening of June 7 to catch Scott in a performance that would have been my last chance to hear him. I arrived late and found him talking post-show to some of the club's patrons. He was gracious as always and seemed glad to see me. Perhaps to compensate for my drive, he invited me to hang out for a while and we decided to get a bite to eat. He stopped by his place along the way and I got that rare glimpse into someone's world that only such a visit can impart. His was a sparsely furnished couple of rooms with few amenities but with a couple of songwriter's `staples': a CD player, ten or twelve CDs and two or three songwriter magazines. I also recall him showing me a book his brother had written - one he characterized as a murder mystery with a curious Christian twist.

At the restaurant, I got my first real sense of Scott's world-weariness. He spoke of his time in the armed services and of just how long he had been going about this task of making original music. I had long envisioned big hopes for someone of Robinson's talent and had pictured him on the road, sharing that talent with the world. It seemed like such an easy thing to translate into reality but now I was beginning to sense some of the reasons for his seeming inertness. There was some bitterness, to be sure, but I was more stricken by a sense of profound frustration with the particulars of everyday life. It was as if the roadblocks were literally everywhere and the fact that no one else could see them (including me) only made matters worse. I left the encounter feeling intense sadness for this man I had so long admired, not realizing it would be the last time our paths would cross. I thought it particularly curious when Scott's mother mentioned to me at the funeral home that he was scheduled to move back to Louisville on the day following his unanticipated death. Scott had found a kind of home in the heart of the Louisville music community and a move back to town may have been indicative of a renewed resolve to make things happen. We'll never know.

The most telling look into Scott's inner torment may, ironically, exist in the lyrics to one of Mellow Drama's least-touted songs, "Still Life":

"One moment I walk on that line

the next time out I'm lost again.

One day running toward the light

The next day crippled with my sin.

We can only hope he has found the light at last.