**The following review was written by one of our new writers, James Ward. Follow him on Twitter: @maddogttu! We’ve included a short bio for James at the bottom of this review.
written by: James Ward
2013 brings the first new studio offering from Charlie Robison since 2009’s Beautiful Day. While Beautiful Day is often cast as Charlie’s response to his divorce from former Dixie Chick, Emily Erwin, High Life could be cast as Charlie’s return to living the bachelor life that we all know him for. Charlie yet again leans on his favorite songwriters for the material for his 7th studio album. Important to note on this album is that a third of tracks come from within his family with contributions from well-known brother Bruce Robison and lesser-known sister Robyn Ludwick. He also draws tunes from Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan, Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder, Bare Jr. & Kinky Friedman.
The album starts off where Beautiful Day left off with the slightly different titled version on Bruce Robison’s “The New Me” from his You and Me album. The song is a slightly humorous take on being replaced in a relationship as evidenced by the line in the chorus “red & white is the brand black/ though I don’t know what that means.”
The song continues with another song from the family with Robyn Ludwick’s “Out of These Blues.” Charlie slows down the tempo with this song and Robyn does an excellent job of painting a picture of person down on their luck after a breakup. This song should wet a listener’s appetite to check out more of her offerings. Strangely enough Robyn wrote this song after watching Charlie and Emily go through their divorce.
The Band’s Robbie Robertson wrote the next tune which fits with Charlie’s history of covering high energy songs in his live shows. This will fit in as a crowd favorite along side with his versions of J.J. Cale’s “Call Me the Breeze” , Elton John’s “Rocketman” and The Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” This song in my mind fit’s Charlie’s personality perfectly, and brings out his raucous side.
Charlie goes back to his sister for the fourth song on the album with “Monte Carlo.” This is another song that Robyn wrote a family member, their mom. This is another excellent written song that paints a picture for the listener. The chorus hooks you with the line “oh darling I love you/like rednecks love to fight/well like a cowboy loves Saturday night”.
Next is the cover of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Even though this is a Dylan penned tune that takes place in Europe you could easily change the references to places in Texas and convince most people that it was written by Charlie.
The album takes a big turn with Doug Sahm of Sir Douglas Quintet/Texas Tornados/Los Super Seven fame. “Nuevo Laredo” is a song that really separates Texas Country from other forms of regional country. It is written in the “Spanglish” style of switching between English and Spanish and really captures Charlie’s South Texas upbringing.
The album continues with the South Texas/Mexican theme with Ry Cooder’s (slide guitar virtuoso) “The Girls are From Texas.” This tongue in cheek song of falling in love with Texas girls features a great performance on the accordion.
A hidden gem towards the end of the album is Bare Jr’s “Patty McBride.” You might recognize the name Bare Jr. from Charlie’s last album, he wrote the song “Nothing Better to Do.” Bare Jr. is the indie rock/folk band of Bobby Bare Jr., the song of the legendary songwriter Bobby Bare. If you haven’t listened to any of Bobby Bare Jr. or his band you are missing out on one of the better musicians of the ‘90s. His band’s music is compared to likes of Wilco and Son Volt. This song about a larger than life aspiring musician should be another crowd pleaser in the live show.
Rounding out the album is the Kinky Friedman tune “Wild Man from Borneo.” The lyrics of the song would fit in well with the psychedelic album cover. Charlie originally covered this song for Kinky’s tribute cd Why The Hell Not. This version is good but it is hard to beat Rodney Parker’s version from his Lonesome Dirge cd.
Though this record has no original songs by Robison it should please his longtime fans and highlight some songwriters that they may have not known. I for one hope this helps Charlie continue to recover from his divorce and hope to see a new album with some fresh material in the not too distant future.
James Ward Biography: I was born in the Denver suburb of Aurora in ’80s and moved to Texas as a kid. I owe my country music influences to my dad who always had some classic rock or classic country on in the car. When I entered my teenage years I ran across Justin Frazzel’s Front Porch show on the Wolf and got hooked on the Texas sound. I spent my college years in Lubbock and spent many a night at the Blue Light on songwriter nights and saw quite a bit of Josh Abbott, the Hogg Maulies and Charlie Shafter. I graduated with my 2nd degree in 2010 and settled down in Dallas. Earlier this year I took a promotion with my company and relocated to Nashville, TN but I’m still seeking out the good authentic singer/songwriters.