Review: Bruce Robison keeps it simple with friends on 'Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band'
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If you're a fan of country or Americana music, there's a strong likelihood some of Bruce Robison's work is in your music collection right now. Robison has been a fixture on the Americana music scene with his wife Kelly Willis, garnering Americana Music Association “Best Duo” nominations and consistently climbing the Americana airplay charts and collaborating on the albums and concerts of countless of the genre's biggest stars. On the mainstream country side, Robison is known for writing a string of Top 10 country hits for the likes of Dixie Chicks (“Travelin' Soldier”) and Tim McGraw & Faith Hill (“Angry All the Time”). Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, Robison is releasing an album of new solo material entitled Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band on April 28.

For Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band, Robison took the philosophy of “keep it simple” to heart. The nine songs that make up the album are a mix of light-hearted songs and heart-broken jukebox ballads. The opener, a rendition of Joe Dickins' “Rock and Roll Honky Tonk Ramblin' Man”, is the album's most memorable track with Robison deadpanning his attorney's jailhouse advice; “Son you never, ever oughta drink when you drive” with a Big Bopper flourish.

But just because Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band is listed as a solo effort, don't think he's going it alone. Robison calls on several friends to help out. Kelly Willis can be heard lending harmony vocals and guitar work to several tracks. Cajun fiddler Warren Hood brings a bayou flair to Robison's cover of The Who's “Squeeze Box”, as well as lending some understated mandolin work to “Sweet Dreams.” But it is fellow Americana troubadour Jack Ingram who steals the show, pairing up with Robison for a cover of “Paid My Dues” that turns Jason Eady and Micky Braun's tune into a boozy dive bar romp that intentionally channels one of Robison's biggest heroes, Jerry Jeff Walker.

The production on Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band also sticks to the “keep it simple” mantra, resulting in a barely there mix that leaves in laughs, side comments, post-song musings and the occasional flub. It gives the entire album less the feel of a slick studio work and more of a straight to tape recording of a group of friends hosting the world's most talented guitar pull. With the selection of songs, the “one take to make it” style not only works for the album, it becomes another piece of the whole; an essential element that adds to the charm.