I’d be willing to bet that Robison family reunions are a whole lot of fun. Over in one corner you’ve got brother Bruce, a sensitive singer/songwriter in the James Taylor vein whose songs have been big hits for folks like Tim McGraw. Next to him is his wife Kelly Willis, a talented singer/songwriter in her own right. In the other corner is Charlie’s wife Emily Robison, who plays the banjo with the Dixie Chicks. She’s talking with Chicks singer Natalie Maines and her dad, the legendary pedal steel player and producer Lloyd Maines. And then there’s Charlie, a professional wise ass Texas good old boy, who on his fourth studio record still sounds like he can’t believe he’s playing country music for a living.
“We gonna be like an ice cream cone/Better eat it quick or it’ll be long gone/Buy me a whiskey get yourself stoned/And we gonna have a good time,” he sings on the title track, a rather moronic honky tonk party tune. And that’s the problem with Good Times. I get the feeling Robison is a smarter guy than he comes off here. In fact, he’s displayed some smart songwriting on previous efforts. Unfortunately, here he takes the easy way out with tunes likely to appeal to drunk Texas frat boys in cowboy hats. Call him a less talented Robert Earl Keen.
Or perhaps a less classy Lyle Lovett. That’s what he sounds like on the single entendre-laden “Love Means Never Having To Say You’re Hungry,” which includes these not so clever lines: “I like to stick my face close to it/And put it on my tongue/And I don’t pick my head back up/Until she says I’m done.” He’s allegedly espousing the qualities of his wife’s cooking.
It’s not all bad though. The aforementioned Lloyd Maines (who also produced this album) contributes some nice steel and dobro work to several tunes. Natalie Maines adds harmonies to “El Cerrito Place,” one of two songs here by Keith Gattis, who hasn’t been heard from much since his 1996 debut record. Unfortunately, this one, like many on the record, is beyond Robison’s limited capabilities as a singer.
The ballad “Photograph” is surprisingly sweet and touching. “Grandpa died early before I could know/The man that they tell me I take after so,” Robison sings. And on “Magnolia,” he nearly manages to avoid the song’s clichés by singing from a woman’s perspective.
At its best though, much of Good Times is dull and generic; at worst, it’s silly and idiotic. I still want an invitation to the next Robison family reunion, but I may hang out on the other side of the room.