Kim Robins has blended the sounds of hardcore traditional and progressive bluegrass to produce her debut CD, 40 Years Late – a collection of intimate stories that reflect Robins’ own journey as told through a mix of original songs and remakes of bluegrass and country legends.
Born into a musical family and singing from the age of five in church and in her father’s band, Robins was influenced largely by the music of Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Ray Price, Bill Monroe, and Barbara Mandrell. She was an original member, and the youngest, of the Little Nashville Opry in Nashville, Indiana. Her mother’s encouragement that she practice daily and sing loud paid off as she traveled all over the country, opening for legends such as Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell and The Oak Ridge Boys.
Robins grew up with music in her veins but, at age 19, gave her first love a backseat to a new love – her baby girl. After earning two college degrees, single handedly raising her daughter and establishing a career, Robins met and married renowned banjo player Butch Robins – and her dream of performing music was reignited. With Butch’s encouragement, she started writing music and finding venues to showcase her powerful vocals – starting with singing backup harmony with bluegrass band Misty Stevens and Reminisce Road. Since then, Robins has gained attention with her high-energy, contemporary sound, performing at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, The Folk Alliance in Memphis, and opening for Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice at the Historic Jonesborough Bluegrass Series.
All at once feminine yet fierce, transparent yet tough, vulnerable yet versatile, 40 Years Late includes 12 songs that center on the theme of heartbreak and redemption. Of the seven which were written by Robins herself, the title track deals with the heartache and redemption of the relationship between a little girl and her father, and of the heartache and redemption of putting passions on hold. With a hint to her years on the road as a medical sales rep, dreaming of one day being able to perform music again, it speaks to anyone who has given a back seat to dreams:
And years out on the highway has brought me where I am today
We all have a dream but some of us must wait
But we are all defined by the choices that we make
This time I’m gonna make it work, I’m just 40 years late.
Others, of course, deal with romantic heartache and of grace both extended and received. In “It’s Me Again,” written by Sheila Stephen and Jerry Salley, Robins sings from the point of view of a betrayed lover:
When the touch you left me for
Don’t satisfy you anymore
You’ll close your eyes and you’ll pretend
It’s me again.
And, in her original “Cry,” she sings from the point of view of the betrayer:
I tried a million times to tell him but I couldn’t find a way out
They say the truth is hidden in a lie
Until a warm night in autumn, at a motel close to our home
The truth I no longer could deny
Traditional bluegrass fans will enjoy remakes of the likes of Bill Monroe, Dolly Parton, and Porter Wagoner, and should keep an ear open for some humor as well. In a tribute to her idol Connie Smith, “I’ve Got My Baby On My Mind,” Robins sneaks in Smith’s trademark hiccup.
Lastly, the CD comes full circle with a bonus track featuring the man who originally ignited Robins’ love for bluegrass – her 82 year-old father — and the man who fanned the flame forty years later – bluegrass great Butch Robins. Of his original album’s namesake, Butch Robins says Kim Robins’ 40 Years Late is in the top 25% of all first time efforts he has ever heard.
Robins has managed to assemble a team for 40 Years Late to produce a sound that is both impeccable and ingenious — legendary musicians including Butch Robins on banjo; Michael Cleveland, International Bluegrass Music Association’s nine-time Fiddle Performer of the Year; Jeff Guernsey, former fiddle player for Vince Gill, on guitar; and Lynn Manzenberger, formerly with The Wildwood Valley Boys, on bass. Cleveland’s mandolin player, Nathan Livers, also played on several tracks. Richard Torstrick engineered and co-produced 40 Years Late, and local favorites Mark Stonecipher, Mike Curtis, Seth Mulder, Misty Stevens and Kent Todd of Blue Mafia also contributed.
Jeff Guernsey says “There is something for everyone, from traditionalist to progressive bluegrass lovers.”
Now married to businessman and college basketball official Mark Gines, Robins resides in her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, balancing her career as Registered Nurse for a Wound Care Physician, with time enjoyed with her husband, daughter, two stepsons, and two grandchildren. And, some forty years after she started, she is writing, recording, and performing music — proving that, sometimes, even forty years late is right on time.