Bruce Robison

The New World

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The term "singer/songwriter" usually implies that a performer's songs are more distinctive than his or her ability to sing them, which makes it an appropriate one to describe Bruce Robison, who can carry a tune, certainly, but is not a great vocalist. A singer/songwriter is also thought to have a unique viewpoint, however, and that really can't be said of Robison, who writes country songs steeped in tradition that do not reveal a particular vision. So, maybe he should be considered a songwriter who sings, rather than a singer/songwriter. Robison's songs are both traditional and highly crafted, which tends to make them good vehicles for Nashville recording artists always on the lookout for exactly that kind of material, and he pays his bills on the covers his songs earn. He has not ever given up on singing them himself, however, even if he has to work on a tiny record label to do so. The New World is another good collection of Robison originals (plus guest musician Kevin McKinney's "Hanging on Hopeless"), on which he explores country blues ("Bad Girl Blues"), Tex-Mex ("California 85," referring to a wine that "goes well with her lies"), and honky tonk dance music ("Twistin'"), among other familiar styles. He writes and sings story-songs about rural life, the ups and downs of romance, and drinking, in and out of bars. He provides full-bodied, well-played arrangements featuring such quality musicians as Mickey Raphael and Paul English of Willie Nelson's band, and Kelly Willis on vocals. And he sings competently, though it's hard not to consider the album another glorified publishing demo that would provide excellent cuts for better-known artists like George Strait and Alan Jackson.

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