Cheater’s Game by Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison


Although married 16 years, this is the first full-blown recorded musical collaboration between Austin-based Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison.

It’s great. The vibe is very similar to Ms Willis’ recent solo work (her album Easy is one of the best-sounding records I own), but here her voice blends with Robison’s to great effect. They share lead vocal duties, but always harmonise beautifully on choruses and so on. A great example is “Leavin’”, which starts as a Robison vocal and then becomes almost like a round with Willis’ harmonies. Great finger-picked guitar, too.

The mood shifts from plaintive (“Long Way Home”) to joyfully heartbroken (“9,999,999 Tears”) and honky-tonk rowdy (“Border Radio“). The playing is superb and the production has a lovely ‘analogue’ sheen. I downloaded it, but you can buy it on 200g vinyl with the CD included if you want. Something about the sound suggests that hearing this on vinyl would be a treat.

I’ve not heard much of Robison before. He’s got a good voice, reminiscent of John Prine at times (which means that there’s an occasional hint of Dylan). This is already one of those albums that when a track comes on during random or alphabetical play, you immediately notice how great it sounds compared to anything else around it.

“I’ve got nine million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand,

Nine hundred and ninety nine tears to go

And then, I don’t know if I’ll be over you.”

Fantastic record. Highly recommended.

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