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Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison – Cheater’s Game

Cheater's GameSo right behind Emmylou and Rodney on the Americana Charts is another duo, this one though is a married couple, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, each with their own careers, both just a little bit different in their approach to music. According to their website:

(Kelly says) “I’m more rockabilly/60s, and he’s got that ‘70s Texas songwriter thing”—they’re both artists deeply rooted in the hard country, yet deeply progressive music scene that’s Texas post-Bob Wills. A place long on big emotions, serious Saturday nights, long necks, roadhouses, big hair, roughnecks and tender hearted women, Texas’ Robison and Willis bridge the gaps and build a refuge for the Venus/Mars continuum that is men and women high on hormones and short on guilt, not to mention the craggy aftermath of same.

But together on their first release together Cheater’s Game they shine! I’ve been a fan of Bruce’s music for a while now. I discovered his music, and a lot of others, including his brother Charlie’s music in the late 90s. Bruce’s albums Wrapped and Long Way Home from Anywhere spent a lot of time in my CD player! I’ve heard Kelly sporadically, I do love the vocals she provided on Mark Erelli’s song “Compass and Companion” But back to Cheater’s Game like Emmylou and Rodney there is a great chemistry between Bruce and Kelly that may just stem from their love for each other, duh! Again from their website:

Kelly and Bruce

There’s a transformative thing that passes between them. Listening to Hayes Carll’s regret-filled “Long Way Home,” the ballad takes on a sense of gentle compassion for the lost soul, a desire for some kind of deliverance beyond the knowledge that they’re gone.


“Sadness, happiness or tension, but it’s really all about the tension,” Robison admits. “I think whatever’s there is amplified by the harmony, what’s between the notes as much as the notes: the way they bend and twist.”


“Beyond the harmony, there is something that happens when it works,” Willis picks up. “You can’t explain it, but you know… Look at ‘Lifeline,’ with its fabulous melody and the chorus with those harmonies. That is so much more. Maybe it’s that I’m such a fan of Bruce and his writing, or maybe it’s just loving him so much and having that, knowing he’s there makes the song better! They make it more because they understand.”

I could go on and on about the album about how great each song is, from the title track “Cheater’s Game”, which opens the album, to their cover of Dave Alvin’s “Border Radio”, and Robert Earl Keen’s “No Kinda Dancer” but I won’t I’ll just say that if you enjoy true country music in the tradition of Johnny and June and Tammy and George, Waylon and Jessi or even Conway and Loretta, then check out this album!

Here’s Bruce and Kelly’s cover of “Border Radio” courtesy of Music Fog!