Robbie Robertson is gearing up to release Sinematic, his first studio album in more than seven years that marks a shift in the legendary Band guitarist’s writing: while he wrote mainly character songs for years, his 2016 bestselling autobiography Testimony pushed Robertson to more personal territory. “There is something blatantly honest about this period I’m in now, what I’m drawn to,” Robertson told Rolling Stone’s David Browne. “I guess I’m at an age now – a place in my journey – where I don’t care what you think. I’ll tell you anyway!”
That sentiment is clear on “Let Love Reign,” the latest release from the album, where Robertson talks about remaining optimistic in an age of paranoia and fear. “Woke up in a cold sweat,” Robertson sings over a swampy shuffle, “was that thunder that I heard, or bombs dropping from a jet?” He ultimately pushes these thoughts aside for a hopeful chorus, where he’s joined by Irish balladeer Glen Hansard.
In a statement, Robertson says the message of “Let Love Reign” was inspired by John Lennon. “Some people think John Lennon’s dream about love and togetherness went up in flames,” said Robertson. “I think that’s wrong. It’s everlasting. There was something a little naive about John Lennon going around singing about peace, but in that period young people celebrating love and peace helped end a war.” The song’s snaky groove was inspired by the sounds of some of Robertson’s other heroes: “I thought of Dale Hawkins and ‘Susie Q,’ just as far as a groove and guitar riff,” he said, “like James Burton or Roy Buchanan. That song has cobwebs all over it.”
Robertson teams up with other friends on Sinematic, including Van Morrison and Citizen Cope. He also scored Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman, out later this year.