Charlie Robison, Jack Ingram, & Bruce Robison
Recorded at the venerable Gruene Hall in Texas in December of 1999, this live record serves as a pretty fair sampler of the three artists on Sony’s Lucky Dog roster. Backed by Ingram’s Beat-Up-Ford Band, each artist gets four songs to showcase their own take on traditional country crossed with Texas Roadhouse.
Bruce Robison gets things going with a shuffle on Joe Dickens’ “The Good Life.” He invites older brother Charlie up for the yearning “Rayne, Louisiana” from 1998’s Wrapped. Also along for the ride is Bruce’s wife, Kelly Willis, who joins him for a pretty, soulful take on “Angry All the Time.” And he gives the band a chance to stretch out on “Red Letter Day.” The somewhat generic honky-tonker is not one of his best songs (he’s better in his sensitive, James Taylor mode) but it’s good to hear him with a solid band behind him. He often tours solo acoustic with Willis.
Charlie Robison’s four tracks include both the heights and depths of his uneven 1999 record, Life of the Party. “My Hometown” is a winning number about growing up in Texas. Unfortunately, the selections also include his jokey redneck country hit, “Barlight,” on which he twists nursery rhymes to pay tribute to saloons, and the silly “Sunset Boulevard,” on which he talk-sings lines like “I wish that the “Enquirer” would spread a rumor that I was gay.”
Jack Ingram already has a pretty good live record of his own to his credit that covers some of his early material (1996’s Live At Adairs), so here he concentrates on three songs from 1999’s somewhat lackluster Hey You, as well as a track he recorded for the film Hope Floats. “Work This Out,” co-written with the prolific Jim Lauderdale, is one of the better songs from Hey You. And “Mustang Burn” is the kind of aging-frat-boy honky-tonk that Ingram has had success with before. But “Barbie Doll,” co-written with Todd Snider, isn’t one of his best.
Unfortunately, the record cuts things short without including any of the encores that often found all three performers onstage working their way through country standards. That would have made this document of their Texas homecoming truly something special.