When it comes to Charlie Robison, it's hard to get past his family. Sure, this Houston native has built a nice, respectable career for himself as a journeyman singer-songwriter, but he's inevitably overshadowed by the people who share the dinner table with him every Thanksgiving. His wife, the former Emily Erwin, is a founding member of the Dixie Chicks. His brother Bruce is a much-in-demand country songwriter who's married to rootsy songbird Kelly Willis. And, of course, Kelly Willis is Kelly Willis. Let's face it: Even Robison's four-month-old twins are more famous than he is.
Robison surely recognizes his situation, and he recently honored that impressive family tree with his "Photograph" video, which finds him sitting in a chair (when he's shown at all), silently watching a montage of family history roll by. The song and video capture Robison's sentimental, introspective side, which alternates with the rambunctious persona found in songs such as "Good Times" and the Lyle Lovett-esque "Love Means Never Having To Say You're Hungry."
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Robison's been making solo records for a decade now, and his latest, the 2004 Dualtone release Good Times, finds him lamenting his "Big City Blues," watching his psyche sink to "The Bottom," and searching for a lost love in "El Cerrito Place." If Bruce Springsteen had grown up on a Bandera ranch soaking up country music, and if all his albums sounded like The Ghost of Tom Joad or Devils & Dust, he'd be Robison. If Robison had grown up in a small New Jersey town aspiring to be Gary U.S. Bonds and Mitch Ryder, he'd be Springsteen. And all his family members would be showing off their pictures of him.