April 28, 2017
The Nations bar in West Nashville is just the kind of place you’d expect to find songwriter. A former auto repair shop, it’s an unassuming yet perfect spot to meet a character with a story to tell. While a dozen or so blue-collar patrons lean over their longnecks, Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Robison kicks back with a Yuengling.
Respected in Nashville and revered in Texas, Robison’s songs have been recorded by some of the biggest names in country music – including George Strait (“Desperately” and “Wrapped”), Tim McGraw (“Angry All the Time”) and the Dixie Chicks (“Travelin’ Soldier”).
This afternoon, Robison is relaxing in a shaded corner on the bar’s outdoor deck. It’s an ideal setting to talk about his new album, “Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band."
“That’s what people did, when they didn’t even have any electricity. You could have the fiddle and the guitar and the stand-up and people were singing, harmonizing and counting off and they had some mistakes in it.”
The album, his first in ten years, is a collection of original songs and covers with contributions from a slew of Texas talent. Longtime friend Jack Ingram co-wrote and makes an appearance on the rowdy “Paying My Dues.” Robison’s wife, Kelly Willis, adds harmony to a cover of the Who’s “Squeezebox.” Micky Braun of Micky and the Motorcars co-wrote two tracks, including the plaintive “Long Time Comin’.” Robison also covers “The Years,” a romantic ballad written by Austin-based songwriter Damon Bramblett. Combined, the nine tracks offer fans lyrics to contemplate and rhythms to dance to – a juxtaposition of emotions Robison enjoys.
“I like that, I really do,” he says. “I write so many ballads, and so many sad songs. So, both with my shows and with the music I listen to, man, I really want to have some fun sometimes. I think everybody does. So, I’ve always looked for outside songs, to kind of fill the holes in.”
“I reached out to Clint Black and we were tweeting back and forth,” explains Robison, “and I said, ‘We’re in the studio tomorrow, make a request.’ And so he requested that song.
“I never would have thought of singing that song. It was like a songwriting workshop to hear this song and how simple it was and how there’s only verse and a half to it. But how perfect and brilliant it was. To say, ‘I know this song, I’ve been hearing it my whole life, it’s part of our culture.’ I love that about country music.”
Recorded in his analog studio (“everything in there is from 1972”) the album feels intimate and inviting. Without the audible distractions of a live audience or noisy bar in the background, Robison has captured the raw magic of playing live with his friends.
“It feels like just being around some people who are making music for just the simple joy of making music,” he says. “That’s the best part of my job. I’ve played honkytonks and coffee houses and weddings and funerals and everything in between. Sometimes it feels like the best about being alive is making music.”