Our Year
Thirty Tigers

After taking forever and a day before finally getting around to making a full album together, Bruce Robison and Kelly Wills now seem committed to not only embracing that particular elephant in the room, but making up for lost time in building their legacy as Americana music’s answer to George and Tammy. Hot on the heels of winning “Best Country Act” at the Austin Music Awards in March and a “Best Country Album” at the Lone Star Music Awards in April for 2013’s Cheater’s Game, the husband and wife duo return with a second helping of modern classic country at its finest that goes down smooth as a Don Williams and Emmylou Harris cocktail with a spunky Fireball chaser. There are fewer originals this time around (and fewer songs, too, with a mere 10 tracks clocking in at a minute over half an hour), but they do the covers proud. Bookended by Robison singing his sister Robyn Ludwick’s “Departing Louisiana” and Willis singing the Zombies-penned title track, the set finds them alternating lead vocals song by song and supporting each other via harmonies rather than swapping verses, but their voices blend so well together that it’s never less than a fully collaborative effort. Still, they each have their moments stealing the spotlight. Robison, best known for his songwriting chops, proves himself to also be one of the most underrated male vocalists in country music with his aching reading of the vintage Vern Gosdin hit “(Just Enough to Keep Me) Hangin’ On.” And you probably don’t even have to hear Willis’ take on Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” to know she nails it. Jeannie C. Riley’s smash 1968 version will always be definitive, but mother-of-four Willis brings her own salty sass and verve to the lyric and the rootsy, front-porch-pickin’-party arrangement gives the whole song a fresh, playful spin. Doubtless Willis and Robison will eventually go back to producing their own solo albums (both are long overdue), but as long as their honeymoon period as a duo keeps yielding offspring as charming as Our Year and Cheater’s Game, what’s the rush in breaking up a good thing? — RICHARD SKANSE

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