A lot has changed in the world since Bobby Duncan put out his last studio record, Forever From Here, in 2012. That year Apple unveiled the iPhone 5, chardonnay moms were creeping on the high school dudes from Twilight, and Psy showed out of nowhere, garnered a billion YouTube views, and made everybody insane with “Gangnam Style.”
Yeah, it’s been that long.
A lot has also changed in the life of Bobby Duncan. Both he and long-time best friend and writing partner, Donovan Dodd, have married (not to each other 😉 ), settled down and started families. They also began a little music podcast we know and love, The Co-Write, and have managed to crank out more than 100 episodes full of interviews and untethered opinions on the Texas music scene, entertainment, and pop culture. During the pandemic, the Duncan clan spent a year in New Jersey due to a job opportunity for Bobby’s wife, Taylor. Among all that bustle stewed a new record, 10 years in the making, that finally drops today.
Maybe This Time plays like a musical diary of all the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that occur to those us that have passed through the phase of life where suddenly, life is no longer just about you. You have a wife, you have little ones that depend on you, and you must bust your tail to keep it together. Your marriage must be nurtured and navigated, with grace being at the forefront of making it happen. Your kids look at you like you can do no wrong, yet inside you are constantly questioning whether you are making the right decisions.
Life is a journey, and while previous Bobby Duncan albums look at the struggle through a lens of heartache and at times, self-loathing, this one looks at the world with a wavering optimism. Always questioning but girded in hope that the storm can be weathered.
The 10-track album kicks off with a banger in “Close Enough To Break Your Heart.” It’s a not a Koe Wetzel “let’s get fucked up and arrested” type banger, it’s a singer-songwriter “I’ve got some shit to say” kind of banger with ample pop to make it radio friendly. An organ just drops you into a pit of sound, and it’s off to the races from there.
“Love All Along” follows and poses all the questions cold feet are made of as you approach your wedding day. Each verse is driven by the question “Will you still want me when…” realizing that as the years pass people change, words and actions pierce hearts, and scars form. The real questions are, will the chinks in the armor stand the test of time and will your significant other love the person you eventually become?
While clearly a homage to Duncan’s Fort Worth neighborhood, “Down on the Avenue” beautifully paints the idealistic morning walk in Everytown, USA. The remnants of the bustling night before are erased by the cool, fresh air as people and places commence with the rituals of the day. A sleeper tune that sneaks up on you, “Down on the Avenue” is lighter fare, giving you a well-timed breather from its predecessors.
The title track, “Maybe This Time” follows, and is about moving forward from past mistakes and looking at the world with a hopeful eye, an opportunity to do things right moving forward. Although mostly written by Donovan Dodd, it fits the Bobby Duncan vibe, which is no surprise considering these two are the definition of “work spouses” when it comes to writing music together.
“Enough” comes straight from the heart of Duncan. It’s about the onslaught of life hitting you in the face yet choosing to step up for the important people in your life. Forgiveness is key, otherwise your past could haunt you into not becoming who you want to be.
Two tracks on the back side of the album, “Something To Lose” and “Learn to Love Again”, feel chronologically out of order in relation to the rest of the record, but thematically tied at the hip. Both feel like they come from a guy used to getting his way, doing what he wants, love be damned until someone happens. That same guy then steps up to embrace the high stakes of having something meaningful. Both are upbeat in delivery, with “Something To Lose” aptly being the radio single and “Learning To Love Again” delivering the truth like a Will Smith slap upside the head.
Closing out the record is the optimistic “Everything Just Might Be Alright” and a Bruce Springsteen cover, “If I Should Fall Behind.” Of all The Boss songs one could cover, “If I Should Fall…” fits well into essence of the album with instrumentation that’s well executed.
Finally, there is “Sometimes”, a song that reflects on the past and how one might do things differently if given the chance. It’s also the realization that there isn’t a formula to life and is the kind of wisdom gleaned that’s worth passing down to your kids. The chorus sums it up well.
“Sometimes you've got to take the long road” “Sometimes fast, sometime slow” “Sometimes you lead, sometimes you have to follow” “Sometimes it’s best not to know which way to go.”
The instrument arrangements through the whole record are well done. Organ fills, timely guitar phrases, and percussion to push things along give Maybe This Time a sonic richness not heard on previous Bobby Duncan records. Kudos to producer Chris Watson and the man, Adam Odor, for taking this thing where it needs to be.
Also, listen carefully and you’ll hear the harmonies of the great Johnny Cooper sprinkled throughout. It’s a bit subtle in the mix but thickens up the vocals almost like a vocal effect through the verses.
A record ultimately about adulting, Maybe This Time portrays love, forgiveness, patience and reflection as all virtues worth pursuing. Genuine, lyrically eloquent, and easy on the ears, it’s well worth your time…and time you will have if Bobby and Donovan keep up their current pace. The Co-Write boys hopefully won’t wait too long to present their next offering because nobody likes songs about runny pudding and blowing out diapers in the old folks’ home.
Go get you a copy of Maybe This Time at a live show but until then stream it wherever you get your tunes.