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Album Review: Charlie Robison – Beautiful Day



There was a time not long ago when it would have been pretty easy to assert that that Bruce was the best songwriter in the Robison clan. Brother Charlie’s latest effort makes a strong case for reconsideration of that position.

Birthed in the aftermath of a divorce from his wife of nine years, Dixie Chick Emily, Beautiful Day is both Charlie’s most inspired disc and his most listenable, an album that beautifully balances hooky rhythms and crisp production with his typically razor-sharp lyrics (all of this underscored by guitarist Charlie Sexton’s engaging and tasteful contributions).

It is also Robison’s most personal work to date, if not his most adventurous. Although its content is neither as epic nor as literarily weighty as much of the material on seminal disc Life of The Party, Beautiful Day is considerably more emotionally revealing.

From the album’s opening lyrics, which finds him unapologetically waxing on his ex and her new life in Venice (CA), Robison leaves no doubt that the next 37 minutes will be about a man’s journey through hell.

It is a journey made all the more rewarding, however, for the fact that Robison embarks on it somewhat begrudgingly. There is a veil of bitterness and a palpable stubbornness that emanates from his singing and songwriting, and it is when those things finally ebb into disappointment that we are offered a rare glimpse of Robison with his guard down; so distraught is he on this abum that he can no longer rely only on the humor and sarcasm through which he has often discharged his feelings into lyric.

On Beautiful Day we see a Robison who is heartbroken and harboring a pain that his background and machismo won’t fully allow him to bear. “Reconsider,” written by Keith Gattis and Charles Brocco, is a devastatingly honest plea for reconciliation, while the self-penned following track “Feelin’ Good” admits resignation to the fact that you can’t change what you can’t change, even when you had–and would give anything to get back–an angel who “promised she’d deliver.”

“She’d save my soul,” Robison sings. “But she left a hole.”

By the time the disc rolls into its final few tracks the lyrics have devolved slightly (becoming somewhat less focused that those that make up the first half-dozen stellar songs), but Robison dives head first into the music, offering up a final string of performances that read like absolute emotional immersion. Although “If The Rain Don’t Stop,” “Middle of the Night” and “She’s So Fine” are middling by the standards of the rest of the album, it is on these three tracks that Robison sounds immeasurably connected, a man with a guitar clinging to the only thing he has left, as if he’s using his art to shield him from a inconsolably painful world.

His closing take on Springsteen’s “Racing In The Streets” (from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town) is both eerie and gripping, a fitting end to an album that is not entirely hopeful. It’s inclusion here is telling, and makes you wonder just how beautiful Charlie Robison’s days are these days.

Jim Malec is a journalist whose work has appeared in American Songwriter, Country Weekly, Denver Westword, Slant and others. He is the founder of American Noise and former Managing Editor of The 9513.

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