Bruce Robison/Kelly Willis 'Our Year' - Thirty Tigers

The Austin-based married couple are back with their second joint album. Both have released some excellent solo albums in the past,  but here combine their talents on an album that is warm and welcome. The opening song Departing Louisiana has some understated dobro under the voices on a song that talks of the draw that that particular state holds. Motor City Man is one that talks about the motor industry or lack of it and its effect on a working man. Carousel, written by Robison and Darden Smith, has a gentle touch with pedal steel and fiddle that is centred around the notion of impermanence of relationships on occasion. Willis wrote the next song Lonely For You with Paul Kennerley and it immediately takes you back to the early solo albums that Willis released With Kennerley’s Holly-esque overtones it’s an immediately likeable song. Robison takes the lead on the ballad Hanging On that features a nice string arrangement from producer Brad Jones, on a classic well sung song. 

T-Bone Burnett wrote Shake Yourself Loose on a heartbreak ballad, again underpinned by tear-filled steel guitar. Willis and Robison tackle the classic Tom T. Hall song Harper Valley PTA next, and while they don’t displace the original, Willis gives another vibrant vocal performance that makes this version fit the overall context of the album with a more down-home back porch feel than the original Jeannie C. Riley version of this small town melodrama about hypocrites. Waggoneer Monte Warden co-wrote Anywhere but Here with Robison, another song that talks of finding a better situation, a better place to live. I’ll go to My Grave Loving You is a harmony-laden duet that professes love at the highest level. The album closes with another cover; this time it sets the tone for a couple growing together and over coming adversity with This Will Be Our Year

Recorded in Nashville, the album features players of the calibre of Pete Finney and Geoff Queen on steel guitar, Eamon McLaughlin on strings,  John Ludwick on upright bass and Fred Eltringham on drums - but no lead guitar player,  something that gives the sound a softer edge overall. The acoustic guitar duties are handled by Robison, but as you’d expect, it is the two seasoned singers who are the spice here. This is a solidly old school, country style album. It not only serves as a solid album in its own right, but is a reminder of the great work that both artists have produced in the past and will continue to do in the future.