The new album, "House & Garden," from Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally, definitely qualifies as one that is a little bit different. The vintage country-sounding disc is one that likens life's relationships to nature itself. The disc even includes a card inside -- that includes Bird's Eye, Catchfly, Snapdragon, English Daisy, Black Eyed Susan and Sweet Alyssum seeds. In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Robinson says that to say the album happened in a likewise organic fashion was right on the money.
"I would say that one of the things that has been really beautiful in working with Jim has been the natural way we do songwriting and story telling. He's so talented. Music is a fairly new part of my life in terms of being in the public with it," says the Alabama native, who now lives in the Bay Area, "I have found that in working with Jim is this muse coming to life. The songs sometimes start as poems that I have written, and sometimes they mesh. Sometimes, it's just an idea that we well spin and twirl it. It's all very natural. I wouldn't say it's effortless, because it's not. It's hard work, but it's beautiful work at the same time."
For Robinson, being influenced by the land -- and nature -- is an understatement. "My roots and my history go back a hundred years in lower Alabama, and my family had a farm. So, there was always a connection to the natural beauty around me." She said her settings helped her appreciate the little things in life. "Every day, there is some beautiful small thing that is such a miracle if you really look at it and notice it. I remember my mom was always looking at nature, and say ‘What a beautiful tree.' It's amazing how you can go through life and not see what's in front of you."
The disc is a mixture of new cuts such as "Life In The Garden," "Happy To Go," and "Pen In Hand," as well a covers of songs from Carl Smith ("Loose Talk"), Dolly Parton ("My Blue Tears"), and George Jones ("Old Old House"). So far, reviews have been excellent, with American Songwriter and All-Music both praising the album and Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor saying "People aren't going to believe what they just heard."
Nunally -- who claims among his influences Buck Owens, Don Rich, and Tony Rice -- said that country music was on the radio around his house as a kid, and he remembers that his father sounded a lot like Smith, whom they cover on "Loose Talk." He had worked with Robinson before -- though neither saw a collaboration like this happening.
"I co-produced her first record, and was working on her second," he recalls. "We kept laying down tracks -- either for demos or to lay down for other people to overdub, and that sound kept appealing to me. It sounded so comfortable and nice, with just one guitar and two voices. I love the pure and open sound of it, conveying the message of the music."
Of including the seeds for the wildflower in the album, Robinson says she is proud to offer that. "I'm so excited about that. The packaging is also going to be from recyclable material. I just love Black Eyed Susans, they just make me happy. We just wanted to combine the music with the joy of gardening and flowers, and it felt so natural."
To promote the album, Robinson says that "We've got some exciting plans. We have partnered with the American Community Gardening Association. We are so thrilled to be working with them. It's all volunteers, and they create community gardens in urban areas. They are all over the country. We will be doing some work with them, bringing attention to what they do." The duo will also be working with Ramblin' Jack Elliot on select road dates in 2013, as well.