On any given Saturday night, Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Robison is on his way to headline at one of the Texas Hill Country’s legendary dancehalls - the Broken Spoke, say, or Gruene Hall or Floore’s Country Store - when one of his songs comes on the radio. Maybe it’s Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s hit version of “Angry All the Time,” or George Strait’s cover of “Wrapped” or even the Dixie Chicks’ Numbert One hit, “Travelin’ Soldier.” For Bruce Robison, life looks pretty good.
As a songwriter, Robison, very deliberately, sets his scene, poses his characters and sets the machinery in motion. Then, he stands back and gives them room to breathe. It’s an approach that is a luxury in this day of blunt-object sentimentality and sledgehammer nuance that passes for most commercial country music.
In a similar spirit, he’s taken pains to revitalize his live sound. He has recruited Joey Sheffield from the Austin pop-rock band Fastball and Brian Becken and Bruce Hughes from the acoustic-music ensemble the South Austin Jug Band. In blending strains of acoustic roots music with pop melodicism and his own incisive sense of song craft, Robison is injecting a new vigor and energy into his live shows.
As one of the most acclaimed tunesmiths to come out of Austin, Bruce has worked in the traditional musical model all his life. But although his songwriting work ethic remains anchored to traditional values - strong storylines, compelling characters, hook-laden melodies - Robison is working hard to refit his business model to reflect new music industry realities.
By using radio, the web and old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground live shows, Robison is taking steps to make it easier for fans to find his music without having to rely on the vagaries of traditional promotion outlets. This year, Bruce is giving away free “Song of the Month” downloads, via his website and social networks. The free tunes, which are switched out monthly, include fresh-from-the-studio songs as well as past music from his catalog.
Bruce Robison has hit the musical trifecta as a songwriter, performer and recording artist.