Here is the power of Bruce Robison: He can take eleven songs, all low-key, most rather mournful, and turn it into a brilliant work of art. If any other artist had recorded a CD like this, they would be criticized, downsized, and shut out. But Bruce Robison, by some twist of fate, was born with a talent for tellign stories, and a voice to tell them with.
"Country Sunshine" is full of personal, intimate ballads. "Can't Get There From Here," "Blame It On Me," and "Anyone But Me" tell the stories of men who know their love life is ruined, and who accept the fact. On the flip side, the heartwrenching "First Thing About Mary" shows us a man who is grasping at straws, not sure whether or not to believe his beloved is returning.
"Friendless Marriage" features wife Kelly Willis, whose voice blends well with Robison's in this tale of a couple stayign together out of habit. "Devil May Care" and "What Would Willie Do" (and there's only one Willie, people) are the only two songs on here that offer something obpimistic...and they are the only two that don't deal with love. "Valentine," "Sixteen," and "Tonight" offer glimpses at loves past, compared to loves present, and are given with a remorsful and personal air (for example, Valentine mentions "Did you hear about big brother/He's the next big thing," a possible reference to big-brother Charlie?). Even "Bed of Ashes," a flat-out, traditional heartbreaker, captured my immediate attention.
There is no doubt that Bruce Robison is the best singer/songwriter working today. His albums may not be best-sellers...but then, if you look at what DOES sell, and compare it to what DOESN'T, you will see that sometimes the best albums are those that the public doesn't readily eat up. This is one of them. If you want radio friendly, airy, all heads-in-the-clouds-balloony songs, go somewhere else. If you want honest, real music, music that speaks to the heart, the soul, and every other part of your body, then buy Bruce Robison's "Country Sunshine."
on September 23, 2001
Having been one of the first to sign to Sony's Lucky Dog imprint, Robison now becomes the first to voluntarily return to indie releases. While his brother (Charlie) and others (Jack Ingram, BR549) contemplate Lucky Dog's gentle nudge towards a more commercially viable presentation, Robison's taken his leave to concentrate on songwriting and to follow a musical muse who's unfettered by starmaking machinations. The success with which his songs have been recorded by the likes of Lee Ann Womack ("Lonely Too") and Tim McGraw ("Angry All the Time"), has afforded him the freedom and direction.
His latest collection of tunes continues the thoughtful, songwriterly work of his three previous LPs. The production, however, takes an even more decided turn to a homegrown, understated sound that gently underlines Robison's vocals. It's not as whispery as Bill Anderson, but it has the same quiet strength that causes a listener to lean in. Drummer Kenny Malone provides the same sort of easy groove he laid down for Don Gibson and others.
Standout titles include a new duet with Kelly Willis, "Friendless Marriage" (sure to be appearing on a Tim McGraw or Faith Hill album near you), and the tongue-not-completely-in-cheek tribute to Willie Nelson, "What Would Willie Do." "Bed of Ashes" (co-written with Sean Michaels) sets tight, traditional harmony singing against fiddle, steel, and Ian McLagan's Hammond organ. Co-writes with Allison Moore and Marty Siedel further complement Robison's solo works.
Like Robison's earlier albums, this one has a few standout performances, and a host of songs waiting to be magnified by others. The high quality of Robison's songwriting can outstrip his understated, highly-personal presentations. But with such potent songs, the songwriter's subtle singing charms are a good place to begin one's appreciation of his words.