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Charlie Robison

Step Right Up – 2001 (Columbia/Lucky Dog)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Charlie Robison

The slow building success of Charlie Robison's previous album should translate to a quick chart impact for this one. Fans who run out to buy "Step Right Up" will not be disappointed. Robison has retained his greatest strength as asongwriter - the ability to create interesting characters and stories - whilebranching out into a much wider range of musical styles.

Robison's always got a twist up his sleeve. Take the duet with singer-in-law Natalie Maines on a ballad called "The Wedding Song." The sameconcept that Nashville would turn into maudlin goo becomes an episode of "King Of The Hill" in Robison's hands. The Celtic rocker "John O'Reilly" isas great (in both ways) a departure for Robison as "Copperhead Road" wasfor Steve Earle. It's appropriate that Robison also covers two songs by theworld's most eclectic bar band, NRBQ (including the first single "I Want YouBad"). The only misstep is the closing "Life Of The Party," an overgrownlimerick which should appeal mainly to drunks and teenage boys. Thenagain, by the time that tune arrives, many listeners will be punch-drunkfrom the powerful songs that precede it.