May 28, 2007
It Came From San Antonio
Bruce Robison has always been a fantastic singer-songwriter, but he usually takes his time between projects. After last year’s superb Eleven Stories, it’s a wonderful surprise to hear some new material from him so quickly, this time in the form of an excellent seven-song EP, aptly titled It Came From San Antonio.
What distinguishes this set immediately from his earlier work is the more elaborate and experimental production. Usually a Robison collection is a sparse affair, with the focus solely on the lyrics. This time out, he’s more ambitious. See that British flag on the cover of the album? The title cut that kicks off the album is a boogie number that revels in the sound of the first British invasion.
“When It Rains” throws in some Celtic touches, and “Lifeline” bounces along with a few touches of mandolin, sounding like a cross between Nickel Creek and Gordon Lightfoot. The cosmetic touches are refreshing, but what’s most important is that his lyrical brilliance remains the same.
Witness the emotional wallop of the EP’s centerpiece, “My Baby Now”, which is practically begging for Tim McGraw to cover it. Robison catalogs all of the mistakes that his lover has made in the past, and quite a few in the present, but him asserting that none of that matters because “you’re my baby now.” “Anywhere But Here” is a powerful trip down memory lane, where Robison’s memories of childhood are shadows and dreams, and he can’t really recall how it feels to be anywhere but where his life is now.
Robison’s wife reprises her frequent role as harmonizer on the killer ballad “What Makes You Say”, which recalls the anguish of “Angry All the Time” but is more sadly resigned than bitter – “Truth is, I know that we’d better off alone,” is the quiet conclusion they make as they end their marriage.
The set concludes with the songwriter’s lament “23A”, which has Robison thankful for his audience showing up, and doing his best to entertain them, but also contemplating the possible futility of his craft and his life’s work. It’s the least likely of the seven to be covered by a big country hit maker, but a valuable insight into a master’s view of his own artistry.
With so many mainstream country albums becoming overloaded with tracks and still failing to satisfy, this is a seven-song collection that feels like a fully-formed album. I can’t think of a better way to spend $6.93 than to download this EP immediately.
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