Bruce Robison – “Leavin'”
1. My admiration of Bruce Robison is well documented. He has a very natural way of songwriting — one that makes every line seem like an adage from an experienced, trusted elder. His latest record, a duets record (at last) with wife Kelly Willis, is his most natural record yet. Loose and fun, the record listens like a hazy night at the Broken Spoke. I could probably write something about every song on this half-covers-half-originals record, but the standout is “Leavin’”, an uptempo romp that shows Bruce at his best.
2. You have no doubt heard Bruce’s songs before, whether you knew it or not. Despite his ability to be seamlessly interpreted by others, he has a laconic style of his own, which is heard in the opening seconds of “Leavin’”. His Texan drawl outlines a young man full of passion “screaming at the stars”, though Robison’s narrator is unfazed. He knows that words are just words, and has seen too many women who were “the one” come and go. Willis outlines her husband’s clever melodic hook at the end of each stanza, showing that his knack for a great song goes beyond wordplay.
3. “The girls all look the same when they’re leavin’”. Robison’s narrator has clearly had a history, and knows better than to let his heart get caught up in the first rush of new love — though he clearly remains susceptible to it. Somehow, Robison makes this come off as wistful, not bitter. The bridge helps tie this all up — things come and go, your mind often remembers things as better than they were, and you can paint a better picture when you are further down the road. After a clever reference to “Love Hurts” writer Boudleaux Bryant (who had himself a prolific husband-and-wife team), Robison admits that the “scars themselves are never really healing.” It’s somewhat easy to write a bitter song, and somewhat easy to write a nostalgic song. It’s another thing entirely to ride this line of experience and vulnerability, and Robison does it perfectly. As Willie Nelson said, “Jukeboxes make money because no one is with their first choice.” The jukeboxes down in Texas better have Bruce Robison loaded in them, just for songs like this.
Read more from The Song Survives:
A Conversation with Holly Williams