What’s in an EP? What’s the point of releasing a less-than-full-length album, especially when you’re not in need of a record contract or a South-By-Southwest gig? I suspect that for Austin’s veteran singer-songwriter Bruce Robison it was a matter of striking while the iron was hot. The seven songs that were bouncing around his head and crying out for daylight have recently been released as “It Came From San Antonio”, an eclectic and playful set of tunes.
The EP is comprised of one rock and roll tune, two ballads, one road trip story, a song about growing up and getting lost in life, another about the life of a gigging musician, and one great up-tempo pop tune. Although the feat of producing a front to back EP isn’t nearly as difficult as producing a front to back full-length album, Robison and a cast of talent deserve props for delivering 28 minutes that stand up on their own, although without a unifying theme or sound, it spins a bit like a songs-for-sale demo.
The stand out tracks are definitely “When it Rains” and “23A”. The first is a cut that tells the story of a footloose Texas music man whose car breaks down en route to the coast. He is picked up by a woman who shares his travels and his profession to a point, which comes to an abrupt end in Providence. The genius of this song lies in the lyric which ties all four verses together: “a voice that you just love to hear when it rains”. No matter who or where you are – with the exception of those who live in the desert – everyone knows exactly what Robison is referring to, that lost CD or LP which always seems to find its way onto the stereo on dreary days. Although commercial radio rarely delivers a good story, there are some great storytellers still recording and Robison is one of them. “23A” is one of the most honest portrayals of one night as a music man. It starts with playing a cover tune and ends with a dark hall, the way most gigs do. The song is short on glamour and romance, resonates with the truth of countless late smoky nights at honky-tonks all over Texas.
The head-scratcher on the EP is the title track, which sounds like 60s rock cliché salad. While the sonic content of the song might not be the highest of quality, I can appreciate a topical song, which seems to be a dying art. The tune is about Austin’s late great Doug Sahm and his band The Sir Douglas Quintet, who mixed the best of Texas and Liverpool. In this case, the wit and humor of the lyrics, and the fitting tribute to a legend of Texas music, is worth the less than engaging music.
All things considered, the EP is good. It spins well, has great, catchy tunes, fine musicianship and spot-on production. However, I can’t help but wonder if these songs are going to end up on a longer release at a later date. I’m still always a little suspicious of short releases, and as far as bang-for-the-buck, one might fare better on itunes. If you are a collector or a music snob, buy the EP just to say that you had these tunes before some less talented Nashville type scores a big hit with a cover of one of these songs, which seems to be the case with Robison’s tunes these days.
1. It Came From San Antonio
2. When It Rains
4. My Baby Now
5. Anywhere But Here
6. What Makes You Say
by Justin Patch