From his public sparring with the Nashville establishment to his marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) Dixie Chick Emily Erwin, Charlie Robison has often attracted more attention for his personal life than his music. Which is a shame, because the Bandera-raised singer is a sharp, natural talent with an affable grace. Beautiful Day (Dualtone) is his first album in five years, and in some respects, it offers few surprises. The album boasts a big melodic and muscular pop-country sound that sidesteps the audience pandering so typical of the genre; there’s also the requisite cover by a Nashville outsider (Bobby Bare Jr.’s “Nothin’ Better to Do”). But then there’s something different: Robison’s writing gets personal. He touches on his divorce in songs like the title track, “Yellow Blues,” and “She’s So Fine” without reveling in self-pity. Still, “Middle of the Night” and “Feelin’ Good” seem like afterthoughts, and ending with Springsteen’s masterful “Racing in the Street” may not have been the best move. Though nicely done, it underscores an emotional core that Robison himself might have reached if he’d cut a little deeper.
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