Deliberately or not, Viva Voce’s universe is a small one. For over a decade, husband and wife Kevin and Anita Robinson have kept the Viva Voce roster limited to the two of them. With that in mind, their new project, Blue Giant, is most certainly a change of pace. Their eponymous debut is simply a pair of songwriters throwing their doors open to a group of friends and just having a good time. As hokey as that sounds, it’s hard to miss the enthusiasm and consummate professionalism on display throughout Blue Giant.
Blue Giant put their best foot forward with opener “Clean the Clock.” a punchy blast of power-pop replete with careening slide guitars and perfect backing vocals from Anita Robinson. Those slide guitars offer the first taste of the rampant country and western leanings on display throughout Blue Giant. “Blue Sunshine” is the first of a pair of communal country stompers featuring a massive group sing-a-long, and its early placement on the album makes it considerably more enjoyable than the other (“Run Rabbit Run”).
By and large, the vocal duties are split between Kevin and Anita Robinson. Not to be divisive to the good couple, but the highlights tend to show up when Anita takes control. Kevin’s plainspoken approach is certainly easy enough to stomach, but it’s fairly commonplace, and decent melodies remain simply decent because of his conventional style. “When Will the Sun Shine” makes this point as well any other song. When the pair sings together during the song’s early build, they have an obvious chemistry, but when Anita’s voice drops out, it’s hard to not miss her. Fortunately, she returns for her own personal showcase midway through, and that section goes a long way to revitalizing the song. The lovely, pedal steel-augmented “Lonely Girl” provides Anita with another opportunity to steal the show, and she rises to that occasion as well.
But it’s unfair to keep singing Anita’s praises while continuously haranguing Kevin. He certainly has his moments. His duet with Corin Tucker (“Gone For Good”) shows that he has good instincts for male-female harmonies, and he’s believably fired up on the spiky “Wesley.” Nonetheless, Blue Giant is at its weakest when Kevin gloms onto a generic melody and drives it into the ground. Both “Target Heart” and “Run Rabbit Run” take one simple songwriting idea and never develop it into anything worth revisiting.
Blue Giant’s flaws, a lack of truly exemplary songs and an occasional tendency towards repetitive song structures, are minor. Simultaneously, its virtues aren’t overwhelming enough to overlook the album’s problems, small as they might be. If anything recommends the album, it’s the clear joy its makers invest in every song, even if that joy is not always infectious.