First Impressions: Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis – Beautiful Lie

On the heels of Springsteen’s sublime Western Stars, just about everything new I’ve heard has sounded flat – until this morning, that is. On their fourth album together, Texas troubadours (and husband and wife) Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis turn in a stellar 10-song set that delivers hard-earned truths about love, heartache and middle-aged life.

Here’s the opening cut, the Adam Wright-penned “If I Had a Rose,” which was released as a stand-alone single last fall. (According to this interview Robison gave Texas Monthly magazine, it’s what jumpstarted the album.)

Is that aural beauty in a song, or what?!

“Astrodome,” the second track, was written by Robison and Jack Ingram. One need not be from Houston or have ever stepped inside the former home of the Astros and Oilers to enjoy listening to its protagonist, an old man talking about the good old days and how the world sometimes feels like it’s moved on without him. 

Another walk down memory lane, albeit for different reasons, comes courtesy of “One Dime at a Time,” an old Ernest Tubb hit that was written by Jerry Chestnut and Dottie Bruce. It’s a tear-in-my-beer tune, the kind of thing that was once the hallmark of mainstream country music. Another track that channels that old-school country vibe is “Nobody’s Perfect,” which was also written by Adam Wright. It’s a killer cut with a killer vocal by Kelly: 

The title cut, “Beautiful Lie,” a stripped-down rendition of an old Amazing Rhythm Aces song, conjures no less than Gram and Emmylou.   

In short, for my ears and taste, country music doesn’t get much better than Beautiful Lie. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, the best music reflects its time even as it stretches beyond it. Such is the case here. 

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