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Duncan: “I was enjoying a part of life I hadn’t experienced before. That’s when I started writing the songs that became this album.” Courtesy BobbyDuncanMusic.com

Who’s your favorite Country Jason? If it’s Aldean, I can’t help you, but if your Country Jason preference leans more toward Boland, Eady, or Isbell, I think you’ll enjoy Bobby Duncan’s new album. Maybe This Time is the local singer-songwriter’s fifth release and fourth studio album, and it is essentially a reflection on trying and failing and finding your way, what Duncan calls his “most honest and personal collection of songs.”

Duncan has been playing music professionally since he was 18, putting out his first album, the Walt Wilkins-produced Lonesome Town, in 2006. In the intervening years, he released two more: Faith Hope and Everything Else in 2009 and, in 2012, Forever from Here, as well as a live album recorded at the dearly departed Live Oak Lounge, released in 2017. Forever from Here, written with longtime writing partner Donovan Dodd, found Duncan trying on a more pop-oriented sound, but he also took stock of the toll 200 shows a year was taking on him. He was on the path to getting married, and the combination of burnout and a new stage of life inspired him to dissolve his band and promote the album as an acoustic artist.

Then 10 years went by. According to the press material, some of the material on Maybe This Time dates back to 2010. Of this time, Duncan said, “I was enjoying a part of life I hadn’t experienced before. That’s when I started writing the songs that became this album. We got married, started having kids, and the years picked up pace.”

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And on the title track, Duncan sings, “I’ve been a seeker / I’ve battled faith / I’ve searched for answers and been lost along the way,” and later there’s a lyric about being a gambler who’s “never put it all on the line.”

It’s an album that finds a man looking back on where he’s been, wondering how he might have done things differently vis a vis his transition to fatherhood. There’s also an ode to Magnolia Avenue, appropriately titled “Down on the Avenue,” which adds some breezy levity to an introspective collection of songs.

“Adding levity” suggests the other songs, by comparison, are veritable dirges, which is not at all the case. The record is, however, one of those works where, for all the feel-good hooks (of which Maybe This Time has plenty), there’s some real everyday contemplation going on here, the kind of record the non-Aldean Country Jasons excel at. This is not to say that Maybe This Time is a clone of Something More than Free or whatever, but when a person moves away from one way of living into something else, that shift is inevitably heavy-feeling. Duncan reckons with what it means to leave the “I” time of his life behind in favor of the joy of being a husband and dad, part of a “we.” And singing earnestly and honestly about the ups and downs of moving on to a regular-ass type of life is what makes this record a great listen. — Steve Steward

 

Contact HearSay at Anthony@FWWeekly.com.

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