Robyn Ludwick's self-released debut, For So Long, is a bracing record. She has a voice that's pure Texas twang and that emotes far beyond her years. Produced by former Bad Livers banjo boss Danny Barnes and hosting players like husband John Ludwick, brother Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, Champ Hood, Jon Dee Graham, and Chip Dolan, the album finds Ludwick in good company. But the test of a songwriter's mettle is in her material, and it's here that Ludwick shines. Her tunes are sharp, drenched in hardscrabble Southwestern country and Austin poetry. Her words are beautifully impure, covered in blood, bone, and marrow. There's the slow, determined "What Do I Know," with its ringing mandolins and high-strung acoustic and slippery electric guitars wrapping around that big earthy voice of hers. When she sings "She's never seen somebody look at her/Like you look at me/But what do I know about love?/It's all that I am...." you believe her experientially. In "El Dorado," acoustic guitars, a shuffling drum kit, and acoustic guitars usher in a waltz that opens with the words "It's four in the morning and I am in love/With every Saturday night/And I just can't seem to stay sober/Long enough to put up a fight." The effect is electric. The tune is a broken love song that says goodbye to both lover and town, a place where memories are created for the sake of pain alone. The dissonant "Live My Life" is an eerie and arresting closer, standing as a testament to thwarted desire and transcending it in the present. Accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar in the head, the throaty lonesome sound of resignation drips from Ludwick's mouth: "I would love to live my life a long time ago/When I was just a child/I would love to live my life a long time ago/When alone felt free/Not just alone." The tune slips off, out of the realm of sound into the ether of silence and the heart of the listener; anyone with blood instead of sawdust in the veins will sit for a few moments to drink in the extraordinary gift that For So Long is. Tender and tough, Ludwick is an original.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek