Album Review: Bruce Robison – The New World

Brody Vercher | September 17th, 2008

Bruce Robison - The New WorldBy Bruce Robison’s estimation, roots music in this digital day and age needs to be a lot rootsier than its current status affords it. It’s getting a little too slick and his latest album, The New World–a departure of sorts from his previous efforts–attempts to set a precedent by taking cues from an earlier time in Austin’s illustrious music history, recalling ’70s stalwarts by the likes of Michael Martin Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. One of those cues is the unpolished, live-in-studio quality where, if you pay attention, you can hear the squeak of the guitar and buzz of the banjo strings as the players change chords.

He’s built a reputation on his solid song writing and it has rewarded him with cuts from the likes of Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks and Gary Allan. George Strait even took two of his songs inside the top ten. Despite that reputation as a lyrics guy, he’s always had solid melodies, but on this album in particular he’s placed even more of an emphasis on crafting a groove, sometimes to the point where the song becomes so obscure, like the funky “The Hammer,” that it’s hard to follow what exactly he’s singing about.

A banjo carries the uptempo pace on “Only,” a song about a guy so infatuated with a new woman that he forgets the names of all the girls he knew, before slowing down for “Bad Girl Blues.” Robison sings from the point of view of an aging woman trying to hang on to her bad girl past without much success. It clocks in at just over five minutes and, combined with songs like the plaintive “Larosse” (4:16) and the wistfulness of “Echo” (5:32), recalls a few tracks from his previous EP, establishing him as the top purveyor of cinematic story songs.

The epic length of the previous tracks strike a balance with the brevity and tempo of songs like “She Don’t Care,” “The New One” (which treads on the same thematic territory as “Only”) and the rockabilly boogie-woogie of “Twistin’.”

In the end, Robison accomplishes his goal of creating a rootsier album while introducing more upbeat material, both of which may find fans of past albums having a hard time adjusting, but opens the door to a future of exciting possibilities.

3.5 Stars

Recommended: “California 85,” “Larosse,” “Twistin’,” “Echo”
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  1. [...] "By Bruce Robison's estimation, roots music in this digital day and age needs to be a lot rootsier than its current status affords it. It's getting a little too slick and his latest album, The New World--a departure of sorts from his previous efforts--attempts to set a precedent by taking cues from an earlier time in Austin's illustrious music history, recalling '70s stalwarts by the likes of Michael Martin Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen." — review by Brody Vercher "The bulk of the album is very pleasing. I think Bruce is at the top of his lyrical game. My favorite by far is "Larosse." The lyric is a master class in subtext." — Mike Parker [...]
  1. Mike Parker
    September 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Nice Review. There are a few on this album that just don’t register with me. “Hanging onto Hopeless” being the best example.

    The bulk of the album is very pleasing. I think Bruce is at the top of his lyrical game. My favorite by far is “Larosse.” The lyric is a master class in subtext. I also really like “California 85″ and “She Don’t Care,” even though Ty England’s version of “She Don’t Care” is better IMO.

    I think “Echo” almost works, but becomes too focused on getting back to the hook that it lets the story wander a bit.

  2. Brody Vercher
    September 17, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    “Larosse” was my favorite as well, and I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail and imagery used throughout the album. For example, he describes the girl girl in “Echo” as a “raven-haired child” and mentions that he’s dumped “precious days into a scarlet water glass” on “California 85.”

    I enjoyed “Echo,” but I feel like having one of the characters named Echo muddied the narrative a little bit for the listener. I was left trying to figure out whether he’s talking about the girl or the actual echo.

  3. Troy
    September 17, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Brody is there going to be a review on Jessica Cd

  4. leeann Ward
    September 17, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Troy,

    If there ever was an inappropriate thread to ask such a question, I believe you’ve found it!

    I bought this album and enjoyed the clips, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it quite yet (I buy way too many albums). The reviews that I’ve read, including this one, have intrigued me though.

  5. Troy
    September 17, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    well i only ask it on this one because Brody had just posted on it

    (I buy way too many albums) I do to i have habit of buying a few at a time so then i listen to one i like the most and don’t listen to others ones as much

  6. Lynn
    September 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I thought the back story to Echo was pretty cool. I read this blurb on it:

    “In ‘Echo’ Robison imagines a lost love of both Bob Dylan’s and Buddy Holly’s in the back hills of a north-country mining town: ‘I heard Dylan on television mention an old girlfriend from Minnesota named Echo’ Robison remembers. ‘Soon after, in the Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock, TX, I came across this love note written by Holly about a girl from the same place and with the same name! It was a crazy coincidence so I began to imagine who this girl may have been and went from there.'”

  7. Brody Vercher
    September 18, 2008 at 11:45 am

    @Troy – Not from me.

    @Leeann – I bought a copy from Amazon with some other albums, but realized about a week later that my package isn’t shipping until October. So I picked one up at Waterloo. I’d say it was worth paying for twice (although one copy will probably be used for a giveaway :P).

    @Lynn – Did you find any blurbs on “The Hammer”? That one’s bothering me.

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