Artist: Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis | Album: Our Year | Released: 2014 | Label: Premium Records | Catalog #: 7 48252 25593 8 | Genre: Country, Americana | Country: USA | Duration: 00:31:49
The husband and wife duo of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison apparently enjoyed the experience of their first album-length collaboration, 2013вЂ™s CheaterвЂ™s Game, so much so that theyвЂ™ve decided to do it again. Our Year finds the pair once again trading lead vocals and harmonizing behind tasteful Americana-type musical backing, finding nooks and crannies in the well-chosen songs that might otherwise have stayed hidden in solo readings.
As on the previous album, Our Year is almost an even mix of originals and covers, although Robison and Willis put enough a stamp on the ten songs here that youвЂ™ll be hard-pressed to tell which is which. It helps that most of the cover songs are relatively obscure, with the exception of former novelty hit вЂњHarper Valley PTA,вЂќ which Willis belts out with the just right amount of sassy spirit.
Of the originals, the best is вЂњCarousel,вЂќ an ambling waltz penned by Robison with Darden Smith that takes a familiar metaphor and wrings surprisingly poignant mileage out of it. As for the covers, Robison generally handles the more melancholy stuff, such as вЂњ(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hanging On,вЂќ which builds to a stirring refrain, and вЂњDeparting Louisiana,вЂќ a lovely rambler written by RobisonвЂ™s sister Robyn Ludwick. Willis takes lead on the feistier material, such as the harmonica-driven вЂњMotor City ManвЂќ and вЂњLonely For You,вЂќ which gallops along on a Buddy Holly rhythm.
The finest moments on Our Year, predictably enough, are when the voices come together and it feels like theyвЂ™re sharing the experiences in the songs, rather than having one carrying the load and the other in support. The Statler Brothers chestnut вЂњIвЂ™ll Go To My Grave (Loving You)вЂќ sails on the power of the pairвЂ™s close harmonies. Even better is the title track, pilfered from 60вЂ™s garage-rock heroes The Zombies and transformed into a moving testament to fresh starts.
There isnвЂ™t an unpleasant moment on the album. The comfort level between the two leads is palpable, so that nothing here sounds forced. By the same token, that comfort squashes any semblance of drama from these recordings; itвЂ™s a decidedly low-stakes affair. Nonetheless, for fans of affecting vocal harmonies or of the work of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, solo or combined, Our Year is an excellent way to spend your time.
01. Departing Louisiana
02. Motor City Man
04. Lonely for You
05. A Hangin On
06. Shake Yourself Loose
07. Harper Valley PTA
08. Anywhere But Here
09. I'll Go To My Grave Loving You
10. This Will Be Our Year