Jack West's hat trick
Robin Salmon has always worn a few hats. As owner/operator of FMG Music Studio and singer/songwriter/ frontman for rock band Christopher Robin, he juggled his duties daily. The entrepreneur altered his wardrobe considerably last year when he and his band slipped into 10-gallon cowboy headgear as they shifted to the Jack West moniker. It was more than just a fashionable change of threads; this was a visual indication Salmon was abandoning the alt-pop world for a rootsy honky-tonk approach.
Of course, it wasn't as if Christopher Robin — which he started in 1997 — was exactly burning up the charts. But by the middle of 2000, their complex tunes just didn't inspire Salmon any more. "I stopped having as much fun playing alternative pop. My philosophy has always been to follow my heart. I saw Mike Ness and for the first time since the mid-'80s in CBGB's I felt this rush of raw power."
Last year, Salmon, whose family moved from South Africa to the largest ranch in America when he was 12, began writing tunes in a stripped-down country style. It was an abrupt departure from the full-bodied (some say bloated) technique to which he was accustomed. Robin's band did some low-key shows and were amazed at the energy and the response for the new/old sound. As for the name, Salmon says, "We needed something strong like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne."
The band's recently released 13-track debut, Gunslinger, fits comfortably into the current crop of alt-country traditionalists. Salmon finds the strict parameters of the simple three- or four-chord C&W songwriting format an enjoyable challenge. "With the alternative stuff, there were no limits. I wanted to take the tunes back to where every song you write could be torn down to a guy with an acoustic guitar sitting on a front porch."
Jack West play The Earl Thurs., March 15.