Just like Gram and Emmylou, Johnny and June, Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have secured a perfect partnership. Touching on topics sown from forlorn circumstance, the duo's second album melds a tender touch with down home designs. Choice covers affirm a commitment to craft, with fiddles, mandolin, harp and harmonies, bringing a low-lit ambience, which serves to elevate the charm. Both artists are, of course, successful on their own, but taken in tandem, they create a sturdy sound rooted in a backwoods tapestry.
That said, there's nothing here that's out of the ordinary, particularly for those reared on traditional country comforts. "Our Year" is the kind of album made to accompany sleepy Sunday mornings, while sitting by the fire and taking a slow sip of coffee before greeting an unfolding afternoon. For every bittersweet narrative - i.e., the simple yet sentimental "Departing Louisiana," the winsome ballad "Shake Yourself Loose," the lonely lament "I'll Go To My Grave Loving You" - there are a like number of tracks flush with optimism - as manifest in the sturdy strum and Buddy Holly-esque jubilation of "Lonely For You," the tender yet tenacious "This Will Be Our Year" (plucked from the repertoire of Brit invasion band The Zombies no less) and a sassy take on "Harper Valley PTA," among them.
Ultimately, "Our Year" conveys a sound synonymous with timeless standards, each sung with a spirit and conviction that fully ensures their authenticity. In this case, the title says it all; to hear Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison declare this to be their year affirms the fact that when working in tandem, some sort of special notice is all but assured.