Robert Starks and the Diamondtones Dance Band are closing out 2019 on a musical high note with the release of the two singles “21st Century Grandma” and “Text-MEE-Baby”. Starks has prospered and earned a great deal of respect during a long career that has seen him weather countless changes in public taste and the everyday challenges of maintaining your dreams in a world that often disappoints us. His two new singles are life-affirming, joyful over the act of creation, and served well by a cadre of first class supporting musicians more than capable of bringing Starks’ musical vision to life. They likewise gain a lot from stellar production attributes accentuating their strengths and framing them for listeners in the best possible light.
The first of the two singles, “21st Century Grandma”, is an up-tempo instrumental with a memorable guitar propelled melody and brisk drumming that sets an authoritative pace from the start. The main melody is the song’s primary point of focus, but Starks and his band divert the song along the way for a few brief excursions adding spice to the song’s mix. The lead guitar playing has an inspired attacking style throughout the course of the track and unleashes a number of heated runs, but the rhythm section gives it the needed foundation to weave magic for listeners.
His conga playing makes a big statement during the track without ever occupying a significant chunk of the mix. The light Latin rhythms it imposes on “21st Century Grandma” strike a notable contrast with the near rock leanings of the guitar work. It runs shorter than the second single by a fair margin, but there’s nevertheless no feeling that Starks is stretching the arrangement and musical ideas far past their snapping point. “21st Century Grandma”, instead, feels tightly composed from the start – like the band knew what they wanted to say and exactly how to say it.
“Text-MEE-Baby” is a much more conventional tune than the instrumental and its longer duration doesn’t interfere with its ability to make an immediate effect on listeners. That effect is evident from the first – the drumming catches your attention from the get-go and feels complete when the inventive bass line joins in. There is definitely a funk edge to the track, but “Text-MEE-Baby” has its roots grounded deep in R&B and the vocals reflect this above all else. The singing doesn’t confine itself to a single range either and its long reach enhances the performance.
The chorus provides the strongest moment for the second single. Robert Starks and the Diamondtones Dance Band are talented beyond measure as professional musicians but they never forget that their primary mission is entertaining listeners; “21st Century Grandma” and “Text-MEE-Baby” may take different vehicles to arrive there, but they both provide listeners with quite a musical ride. It’s one you will find yourself willing to take over and over and, if you are like me, eager to hear what Starks and his creative partners do next. It’s certain to be well worth the wait.