Listen Up: Wednesday, April 05, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Bruce Robison

Eleven Stories (Sustain Records)

By Jeff Prince

Great Texas Music songwriters fall into two categories. The first includes those revered for their rhymes and melodies but who failed to nab much commercial success. (Think: Townes Van Zandt, Steven Fromholz, Guy Clark, Mickey Newbury.) A second, much smaller group consists of writers who, without selling their souls, churn out popular songs that climb the music charts and earn national acclaim. Writers in this exclusive club damn near become gods — or at least Lone Star poet saints. (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Lyle Lovett come to mind.)

After a decade of penning some of Texas Music’s most interesting songs, Bandera native Bruce Robison is leaving the first songwriting category behind and sailing toward the more exclusive club. He’s already written several smash hits (“Angry All The Time” recorded by Tim McGraw, “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks, and “Desperately” by George Strait), and his new disc, Eleven Stories, contains several more songs with potential to attract big-name artists. “Don’t Call It Love,” written from a woman’s viewpoint, is ripe for the plucking — are you listening Lee Ann Womack? “You Really Let Yourself Go” is tailor-made for Dwight Yoakam.

Just because other artists score the hits doesn’t mean Robison can’t sing. He’s got decent pipes and makes every one of these 11 “stories” shine, even the three he didn’t write (he nails the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed”). But Robison is an aw-shucks kind of guy without the star power of, say, the plastic-hatted, muscled up, limited-range McGraw (who became a star by god only knows what kind of black magic).

Robison writes and records independently and lets the mega-stars cherry-pick the hits. His straightforward songs tumble out completely catchy and radio ready. “Days Go By” is simplicity squared, yet mesmerizing. Writing songs with mass appeal seems effortless in Robison’s hands, when anybody can tell you it’s not — just ask artists such as Newbury and Van Zandt. (Oh, wait, you can’t ask them because they both died young after frustratingly obscure careers.) Robison has avoided their fates, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. His live shows are intimate, friendly affairs, just like his albums.

Wed, April 12, at 8.0 Restaurant and Bar, 111 E 3rd St, FW. Free. 817-336-0880.


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