Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band

Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band (Motel Time Music)

Texas Platters

Bruce Robison hasn't released a solo album in almost a decade, but not for lack of productivity. In that time, the local songwriter who authored top country hits "Travelin' Solider" (Dixie Chicks), "Angry All the Time" (Tim McGraw & Faith Hill), and "Wrapped" (George Strait), delivered two excellent duet LPs with wife Kelly Willis and debuted web series The Next Waltz from his studio outside Lockhart. Credit the success of both endeavors with the laid-back, Southwestern ease of the expertly branded Back Porch Band, because Robison has rarely sounded this natural and comfortable. The eponymous effort largely alternates between rowdy honky-tonkers ("Rock & Roll Honky Tonk Ramblin' Man") and beautifully crafted ballads ("Long Time Comin'"), both approaches relaxed yet striking as nestled into the completely analog production. The best takes aren't actually the songwriter's own, but rather his pairing with Jack Ingram for an uptempo roll through Jason Eady and Micky Braun's "Paid My Dues" and lacing Austin songstress Christy Hays' "Lake of Fire" with highway-lonesome fiddle and steel. Although the Who's "Squeezebox" as a roadhouse stomper doesn't add much to the whole, it fits with the informal feel of the project, especially when followed by a tender turn through Damon Bramblett's wistful waltz "The Years." A closing triptych slows in the lingering ache of "Long Shore," light lilt on "Sweet Dreams," and bar stool weeper "Still Doin' Time (in a Honky Tonk Prison)." Inspired, rejuvenated, Bruce Robison is back and he never even left.

***.5

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