Music Review: Charlie Robison – Beautiful Day (Dualtone)
On Beautiful Day Charlie Robison is a man wounded by love lost but with no time to bleed.
Robison stated in a recent interview that he and his then wife, Dixie Chicks’ Emily, decided to get a divorce on a day he was in the studio cutting a track for this album. The couple split in 2008 after nine years together cause given as “insupportable because of discord and or conflict of personalities.” They have three children.
It’s hard to know when the news came from the whole body of Beautiful Day because thematically it’s very cohesive. Though a casual listen to the album leaves the impression of a breezy slice of Summer country-rock diversion a closer inspection, past the artful musical arrangements, soaring vocals and bright production, shows the work wrapped around heartbreak and loss.
Robison has stated that Emily and he ended things on a amicable note, and that he “…let her hear the songs as he finished them because he didn’t want there to be any surprises.” but it’s hard for me to believe she didn’t wince a few times at the deceptively sunny title cut with lines like “Well she’s hanging down in Venice (CA) with her Siamese cat, she’s telling everybody she’s a Democrat” and “I promise you she’s never gonna get real fat, she’ll get a little lighter underneath her hat.” Zing!
The following songs move from pointing an accusing outward finger to pointing it back at the accuser. Yellow Blues opens with psychedelic guitar noodling then cribs a pace and phrasing from Steve Earle I’m Alright for song about emotional cowardice and Down Again slows the pace but guitarist Charlie Sexton still works his magic throughout this song about introspection that never falters into bitching and whining.
Nothin’ Better To Do keeps the jaunty self-flagellation going with a song penned by Bobby Bare Jr., a man that know his way around the dark whimsy of the human soul, and offering rose thorns like “…I’m in love with you ’cause I got nothin’ better to do…I got nothin’ better to do.”
Reconsider, written by Keith Gattis and Charles Brocco, is a straight ahead plea for second chances and regret of loss, complete with weeping pedal steel. Feelin’ Good finds Robison in the fifth stage of grief, acceptance, with this devil-may-care tune he heads down the road with top down and “Willie on the radio.”
With Beautiful Day Charlie Robison gives his brother Bruce a run for his songwriting money, and shows his distinctly Texas musical style. All while mining what must have been a difficult period and recovering wry and heartfelt gems. Feeling bad has rarely sounded this good.