Bruce Robison is one of the brightest stars in a heaven populated by great Texas songwriters. He’s had songs covered for hits by some of the biggest stars in country music including George Strait, whose unerring ear for songwriting talent has produced top selling records for nearly forty years. Bruce himself is a fine singer and engaging performer – one of the most popular to grace the stage for the Lea Brothers Western Classic and Barbecue – whether solo or teamed with his brother Charlie or his wife Kelly Willis. He’s a man who is concerned about the state of real honest to goodness music that is both entertaining and meaningful. And he’s doing something about it.
Playing off of The Band’s famous farewell concert known as “The Last Waltz,” Bruce has launched a new venture he’s dubbed “The Next Waltz.” I implore you to go to http://www.thenextwaltz.com to read in detail what Bruce is doing. In short, every couple of weeks ago, he releases a new tune by real singers working with other real musicians, recorded on classic analog equipment. The song itself may be new or old, but the method of producing the recording is organic and timeless. Simultaneously, he releases a video more or less about the making of the recording – mainly it’s Bruce talking with the singers about the art and craft of writing and performing wonderful songs. Best of all, on the site there’s a link to subscribe, so every time a new recording is released, you’ll receive an email announcement. His first three featured Jerry Jeff Walker, Kelly Willis and The Turnpike Troubadours. The tunes are great. The recordings are impeccable. And my guess is you’ll be reminded of what drew you to love music of this caliber in the first place.
To whet your appetite, here is the new recording of “Come As You Are” by The Turnpike Troubadours.
At the risk of repeating myself, you owe it to yourself to check out http://www.thenextwaltz.com. In addition to the superb music Bruce is producing, he also posts an ever growing playlist of great tunes on Spotify. Go to the web site, and you’ll find all you need to know to get started.
Of course I realize you may not be all that familiar with Bruce. Let’s spend some time this week getting to know this talented man. I could make a pretty darn good start by introducing a playlist just from Bruce Robison’s songs. How is this for a start?
Bruce Robison Playlist
“My Brother and Me” – Bruce Robison
“Desperately” – George Strait (top ten on country charts)
“Wrapped” – George Strait (reached #1 on country charts)
“What Would Willie Do?” – Gary Allan
“Angry All The Time” – Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (reached #1 on country charts)
“Travelin’ Soldier” – The Dixie Chicks (reached #1 on country charts)
“Tonight” – Charlie Robison (Bruce’s brother on a tune I really like. My mama always told me nothing good happens after midnight. I always replied that nothing good ever happens before midnight. This song kind of proves my point, I think.)
“Rayne, Louisianna” – Bruce and Charlie Robison
In recent years, Bruce has focused on working with his wife Kelly Willis, and the result is two really fine albums:
Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison – Cheater’s Game in 2013 and
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis – Our Year in 2014.
I have them both, and I don’t know how to pick one over the other. Both combine great songs – some original, some by other fine songwriters – with traditional instrumentation and clean production. Heck, take ‘em in chronological order. Cheater’s Game is built around songs exploring the perils, pitfalls, occasional guilty pleasures and heartaches of love gone wrong. While the overall theme has to be seen as sad if not tragic, the tone of the album is far from that. It let’s you enjoy the music while pondering the twists and turns of the games lovers play, not always on the straight and narrow. It’s like what the old masters say about the blues – by singing the blues, you let go of the blues.
The clever “9,999,999 Tears” got a fair amount of airplay, at least on Sirius/XM, but it’s just one of the baker’s dozen terrific tunes. Another of my favorites, “Border Radio,” is on one level an homage to the radio stations broadcasting from Mexico into Texas from the 1940’s into the 1960’s, and on another level it’s a desparate grasp for faded love. The stations would play requests, in this case from a woman whose lover is long gone. She wonders if maybe he’ll by chance be listening tonight. The deejay in the song intones, “this song comes from 1962, it’s dedicated to the man that’s gone, 50,000 watts out of Mexico, ah this is the border radio.”
On some of the tunes, Bruce takes the lead, on others it’s Kelly. Some are truly joint duets. All are presented with a level of talent and integrity rarely heard these days. And if you like this one, you’re sure to like Our Year.
While researching Kelly Willis’s catalog, I stumbled upon an album to which she contributed, that can only be described as a country music guilty pleasure.
The Wandering Eyes – Songs Of Forbidden Love
My first thought was who in the world are The Wandering Eyes? Turns out they’re several of Austin’s hard core traditional troubadors assembled to record anew a collection of some of country’s classic cheatin’ songs. Dale Watson, Rosie Flores, Kelly Willis and a handful of their compadres serve up faithful renditions from honky tonk country’s dark corner like, “It’s A Cheating Situation,” “Hell Yes, I Cheated,” “Lovin’ On Back Streets,” and “When She Does Me Right, She Does You Wrong.”
Dale, Rosie and the rest are strong throughout, but the eye opener that led me to include it here is Kelly Willis’ gender reversal of the great Billy Paul soul classic “Me and Mrs. Jones – a guilty pleasure indeed.