Fly the Flag! The Next Waltz T-Shirts are Now Available

      Hey Folks! We are preparing to release our series of singles in tribute to the master of the song, Guy Clark! Who did we get to celebrate with us? I’m glad you asked. 

      Hayes Carll, Reckless Kelly, Sunny Sweeney, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen all came out to the Bunker to talk about Guy and record a song. This is the perfect example of what we want to do. Great artists doing great songs. Crazy talk. These songs and videos, coming your way, were produced in conjunction with the the folks at Texas Heritage Songwriters Association's Hall of Fame. I am proud to be playing their event in tribute to Guy Clark on April 7th at the Paramount Theatre in Austin.

     Thanks for being a part of The Next Waltz, where country music still lives! And here is another way to fly the flag! Check out our new T-shirts! You gotta have one! Every dollar from sales goes to the production costs for these artists to make the music we love.

     Our first single we released, "Come As You Are" from the Turnpike Troubadours, has entered the Top 10 of the Texas Music Chart, and our second single, "Misery & Gin” from Randy Rogers, has just been released. I am really excited and I hope you'll have a chance to listen. Thanks again for being a part of The Next Waltz. We couldn’t do it without you!

- Bruce Robison & The Next Waltz Team

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Unleashed Live 2017

"I got a pretty good friend who’s seen me at my worse, he can’t decide if I’m a blessing or a curse."   

That is a line by the late, great Guy Clark which is a great example of the kind of plain spoken brilliance that got us all into this racket to begin with.  The possibility of doing something beautiful even when they are putting the chairs up and the gig was shit. That is the difference between classical and country music, and more specifically, the beer joint poetry that is just so damn inspiring that has come out of Texas over the years.

Just got home from Steamboat Music Fest where Colorado is taken over for a weekend by thousands of drunken Texans just looking for a great song and a good time, and not giving a flying fart whether it is on the radio or not.  Every now and then you see these things that make you stop and say “this doesn’t happen just anywhere, and it is all about the music!”

That is the scene that embraced Charlie, Jack ingram, and I all those years ago.  We are so lucky to be friends and have this shared history,  getting together to do a show really is like family,  good and bad.  It was a special time when we ended up on the same label together and did a tour. Almost 20 years ago.

To look back on that music really makes me proud, we did a live record as well, called Unleashed Live.  As we get together to do a couple shows to celebrate those years and our friendship, I spoke with Jack and Charlie about what they remembered (or didn’t) and a lot of what they had to say really surprised me.  Hope you will check it out and here is a playlist of some of my favorites from that era (pretty strong stuff!) much of which we will be playing together in Dallas and Houston, Feb 17 and 18.  Ya’ll should come out and watch my big shit eatin grin as I’m playin along with Charlie and Jack’s songs. Here’s to the old days,  I guess we aree are still in em’!  

See you in Houston, See you in Dallas! See you around.

Bruce

Click HERE to check out Bruce's "Unleashed" Playlist on Spotify!

BUY TICKETS TO UNLEASHED LIVE HERE:
Dallas (Feb 17)

Houston (Feb 18)

CCSC #5: Jack Ingram, Bruce & Charlie Robison - Dim Lights, Thick Smoke

CCSC #5 - Interview: Jack Ingram, Bruce & Charlie Robison

 

The Next Waltz Annual Holiday Shindig Broadcast Featuring Rodney Crowell

Welcome to our Holiday Shindig Broadcast everybody! Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis host their Annual Holiday Shindig every year at The Paramount Theater in their hometown Austin, TX. This tradition, spanning two decades, features a special guest to perform a few tunes and share some stories each year. Last year, the accomplished and brilliant Rodney Crowell joined Willis & Robison, and we're thrilled to present to you a film account and presentation of the concert and interview. 

"Rodney is by any measure an American songwriting treasure. He has always followed his own path, and I think taking a moment to appreciate his accomplishments is worthwhile. With great stories and wonderful music, I know you will enjoy the film. Happy holidays!" - Bruce Robison

Read more about how the Annual Holiday Shindig all got started with our series "A Very Austin Christmas: The Making Of A Texas Tradition [Part One]"

A Very Austin Christmas: The Making Of A Texas Tradition [Part Four]

Continuing The Tradition          

What is in my mind every year as we try to put the show together is a mix of hee haw and some of the old variety shows from my youth. Think Johnny Cash Show, Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher Show, etc. where the vibe was low key, the music was great, and it was totally, utterly unpretentious.

Part of what brought that feeling to our show was our duo albums, Cheater’s Game and Our Year. The Christmas show made our duo albums possible for us because it was something special for us to come together and play music together when we weren’t doing it elsewhere. Since we had gotten such great response during the Christmas show we were being asked more and more to perform together outside of the holiday season, so we ran with it and made Cheater’s Game and Our Year. I really felt those two records made our show better. We had music that was our duo as opposed to just singing harmony with each other. And so, the show has been a wonderful intersection of fun seasonal tunes as well as songs from our careers and really our careers themselves.

 

2014 & 2015 Tapings

I knew for a long time that I wanted to film some of our music - if you look at what’s out there from us on YouTube, it’s pretty depressing. It’s all things folks recorded on their phones, or videos from 20 years ago, or radio interviews, or hard to find. I knew the tightest thing that we had was the Paramount show. It had evolved over time, and we had tons of material we can chose from every year with the guys bringing in suggestions for new tunes that will be fun and fitting.

But, I also didn’t want our taping to be just about us. Didn’t feel like it would really be in the spirit of the show that had become such a big part of the community. So the first year I saved up for a professional crew and brought on Texas icons and some of my personal heroes, Joe Ely & Shawn Colvin.

The show was incredible, but when we looked back through the footage I realized that something was missing - the story. We picked our favorite songs from the night along with Joey & Shawn’s tunes and it ended up airing on PBS which was such a fun thing for me, but I knew that I needed to try again and do better. I still want Joe & Shawn to come through the studio and get to tell their amazing stories because they truly are such impactful artists in the culture of Country music, but that will have to wait for another time.

In 2015, I had booked Rodney Crowell as our special guest and knew that we had to get him to sit down and talk with us. I had in my mind a vision of putting together something like “The Last Waltz” directed by Martin Scorsese, and pulled together a huge team for this one with set design, wardrobe, makeup, film crew, live director, production assistants - really the whole nine. And so, the day of the show came and we sat down at our makeshift set in the basement of the State Theater. I still get chills thinking about all of the amazing stories that Rodney told us that day - everywhere from meeting Roger Miller, to recording with Willie Nelson, to writing Christmas songs with his kids - often dropping into song where the music told the story best. I’m so excited to present this show to you this year on December 20th through www.thenextwaltz.com.

 

Our 19th Annual Holiday Shindig

This year, we’re so proud to continue this tradition and play a small part in our community’s holiday celebrations. We could not be more thrilled to have Lee Ann Womack as our special guest this year at The Paramount on December 17th, and we hope to see you all along the way on the tour this year. Happy Holidays everyone!

A Very Austin Christmas: The Making Of A Texas Tradition [Part Three]

We Make It Big at The Paramount Theatre

Through the first years of the 2000’s, we did our little Christmas show in different places in town every year - Antone’s, The Cactus Cafe, etc. The clubs kept calling and we would say ok. The only year we ever took off was when Kelly was hugely pregnant with our twins born March of ‘03. But I remember when our agent called us up and told us that the Paramount Theatre had called and wanted us to do our Christmas show there. I myself was floored, the historic theatre is a treasure of the community, and it was such an honor when they called. You do realize when you are on that stage all the great artists who have played there and the time you get on it is an honor and a privilege. Kelly remembers being terrified every single year we’ve played there because it’s such a special place, and still gets butterflies playing there every time.

 

Dinner & A Show With My Musical Hero  

One year, we were having dinner at the Clarksville home of my musical hero, and crazily our dear friends, Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker. At some point the holiday show came up, and we asked Jerry Jeff to come sit in. He agreed, so I set to strategizing. I told Kelly that I knew our fans, and I knew exactly what we needed to do.

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I am THE biggest Jerry Jeff fan, so I was beyond excited when he came to rehearsals with the band and agreed to whatever we asked for. He did a holiday song, then a sublime version of Mr Bojangles, and lastly, a special surprise for our fans. We rehearsed the song “Gettin’ By” from his iconic record, “Viva Terlingua” recorded at Luchenbach, to keep in our back pocket. Without any introduction, we jumped into the drum intro, and from the first words of “Hi Buckaroos!” the audience erupted. I knew in that moment this show that had started so accidentally and organically 10 years before had turned into a part of the community. It had definitely taken on a life at this point. We had started bringing on these special guests that were beloved pillars of the community which only strengthened that sense of some kind of institution. People would stop us then, as they continue to do now, and tell us they come every year. It truly is a humbling thing to be a part of, to play a small role in so many families’ traditions around the holidays. Also, doing the show there every year makes you aspire to try new things to keep it fresh, and another of our happy accidents was born.

 

A Magic Slideshow, The Bane of My Existence  

I thought I was just playing with the movie program in a new computer, but Kelly had corrected me on this one remembering best. She had wanted to add a slideshow to the show, but she wanted to be photos of the band members from their childhoods. We put it in the background of one of our most sentimental songs, and it went over so well that we decided we had to do something about it the year after. I started gathering all the video cartridges from the whirlwind years since we started having kids. Our first little boy Deral (or Dodie) was born in 2001, and his brother and sister, twins Ben and Abigail, were born in ‘03. Our fourth child, Joseph, was born two years later, and so our nine years with infant babies was a bit of a blur at the time. But looking back through the video footage I had taken, some of the moments, like any family, were just fall down funny to us. I had stumbled upon this golden footage of our kids doing the strangest things. What started as just looking through some old footage turned into making a full slideshow of the funniest moments from those precious years.

The little Hyde Park Methodist church that Kelly began attending before our first child was born had a Christmas pageant every year, one that the kids would be performing in as part of that community until the church discontinued it. After that little tradition ended, I think it was Kelly’s idea to show the slideshow at our own Christmas shows to bring in that family element of the holiday spirit. It was a really beautiful thing from the first time we showed it, but it became more and more difficult to bring it around to all the venues and keep it updated as years went on. Some years I wouldn’t bring it at all, but fans would complain and Kelly would make me bring it back out again and, well, it’s a core part of the tradition now! As our children grow as they do, the oldest is 15 now and the youngest 10, sharing a bit of our family holiday with the people who come out and share theirs with us is a really wonderful thing. We’re saving the full slideshow for those who come to the show, but have a little peek at some of the clips in the video above.

A Very Austin Christmas: The Making Of A Texas Tradition [Part Two]

A Country Christmas Album

Tonight in Austin there is somebody playing some music that is good as anybody on the planet, and chances are there will be about 20 people there. They will understand the craft and history and be able to express themselves with music the way the rest of us just dream about. I don’t really remember why I started recording the Christmas EP, but I think it had a lot to do with a local musician I saw play. His name was Slim Richey and he was one of those rare people, an Austin treasure.

When I told him I was thinking of recording some holiday tunes and asked if he would play on them, he readily agreed. And when I told him my vision was to have the recordings be in the vibe of Julie London’s classic “Cry Me A River,”  Slim told me why I had chosen him though I didn’t know it myself at the time. His guitar hero was Barney Kessell who played the guitar on that amazing recording. Slim’s style and guidance truly shaped the record - he wrote and performed the most beautiful arrangements for the songs we picked, and even helped me pick the musicians that gave that classic flavor that makes those recordings feel so good. I was trying to keep the EP low key enough to not get into trouble with Kelly’s record label, so I printed up a few and dropped em off at the local radio stations and they started they started playing it. We loved the picture our buddy Marty Butler did for the cover:

I shot Slim in Bruce’s backyard studio, along with the rest of the guys in the band. The Boars Nest, as I recall the studio being referred to, was really just a backyard shed crammed with amazing talent and a reel to reel recorder. Bruce was always avoiding the newer digital technology, so I followed his lead and shot on medium format film.
— Marty Butler from The Butler Bros
slim (1).jpg

We printed two or three thousand that first year, just selling it at Waterloo Records and them calling up when they needed more. We were just going to give it away, you know, at the Christmas shows as a thank you to everyone who came year after year. It had been a few years in, and we felt the need to acknowledge that and record it. We approached it in a really simple way - we were just recording some fun holiday music together, like a Christmas card. That first release felt great: a hyper local release in the community spirit of the holidays.

Kelly’s record label did, in fact, find out about our little EP. To our surprise, they weren’t mad about it at all - they wanted to release it nationwide! So, Rykodisc asked us to add a few songs to make it a full length record. The hunt for new songs began once again to round out our holiday repertoire. We ended up adding “Santa Looks A Lot Like Daddy,” that really depressing Louvin Brothers tune “Shut In At Christmas,” and a live recording of “Okie Christmas.”

Our sound engineer had recorded a couple shows one year including an especially good one where, for the very first time, I had played a Christmas song I had written. Titled “Oklahoma Christmas,” the song is a true story of my first trip to meet Kelly’s family in the tiny town of Sentinel, Oklahoma.

Kelly’s family has a long history in there - her mother and father were highschool sweethearts there and her family would gather there for the holidays every year. Her bringing me a long was a big deal to me, but the culture clash was way harder than I expected. Her very, very religious family was irritated by the PG swear words I was using, which were pretty much the religion in the household I grew up in, and they had me playing a losing game of Star Trek Monopoly. By the 4th or 5th time I had used the Lord’s name in vain, I figured I was done for. The song ended up fitting right in with our left of center holiday show and that live recording really captures a magic moment when we surprised the crowd with a song nobody had heard before. It’s not “Viva Terlingua,” but it’s really cool.

Another song was on the original EP but we chose to keep is one of my favorites - Kelly’s rendition of “In The Bleak Midwinter,” a song she had sung in her church. Being in Austin, the organist in her tiny little Methodist church was a chamber music virtuoso and classical music scholar Michelle Shumann.  So, sticking to the roots of the song, we got Michelle to play on the recording and local musical genius Eric Hokannen to write string arrangements. It really is a great little record with some truly inspired playing from many friends - a wonderful community coming together, the way it should be on the holidays.

A Very Austin Christmas: The Making of a Texas Holiday Tradition [Part One]

Party Like It’s 1999

1999 - What a year. It was such a crazy busy time - our little family booked a gig just so we could see each other. Charlie and Emily had gotten married in May. To think, the year before in 1998 we had all released records too - Kelly with “What I Deserve,” my big brother Charlie had released “Life Of The Party,” I had released “Wrapped,” and The Dixie Chicks with “Wide Open Spaces.” I actually didn’t know this year was so important to our careers until I started writing this piece. As I was going through searching for photos and videos from that first show, I realized that in that one year we all released the work that would define our careers.

Kelly had left behind chasing Nashville charts and major labels and figured she would just record the songs she had already written before leaving music for good and doing something else. Well, that record was “What I Deserve” where she found her voice and her audience and ultimately would never be able to leave music after that point even though she’s tried a few times. Charlie’s “Life Of The Party” had the songs Bar Light, My Hometown, and Loving Country on it which made him a Texas music icon.

My record “Wrapped” had what would become Country radio hits for others - “Angry All The Time” eventually recorded by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill as well as “Wrapped” and “Desperately” both released by George Strait. And The Dixie Chicks? Well they were already remaking Country radio in their image even though they were just getting going. Oh, what might have been. Though we didn’t know it at the time, all those releases that came out in the calendar year of 1998 would change our lives.

It seemed a million miles from Bandera, Texas, but in 1999 our noses were to the grindstone. We were on the road all the time. No kids, no nothing. Somebody booked a gig for us to all get together, maybe Rusty Andrews from the Mucky Duck in Houston, in a little listening room that has been a home in Houston since the beginning and continues to be. To me and Kelly’s utter surprise, our new in-laws Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of The Dixie Chicks offered to play with us as a secret. It would end up being one of the hundreds of shows around the holidays that we would play, and was the start of something for Kelly and I that I still have a hard time believing. Life sure will do that to you.

 

Baby, It’s Cold Out There      

So we had this gig booked in Houston with our little family so we could all see each other. Charlie, Kelly and I, well, we never really rehearsed or practiced.  The Austin club world Charlie and I came up in was very organic and improvisational. You just didn’t figure Willie and Jerry Jeff practiced much so neither did you. But Martie and Emily were different! The minute they were on the show they called wanting the song list and rehearsal times. They were and are such pros - seeing them with Beyonce on TV at the CMA’s the other night I was really proud.

None of that happens by accident. In 1999, they were the same as now - complete pros. So when they called I told them, “Sure,” hung up, and figured we’d better get started finding some rehearsals and some songs.

Kelly remembers that Charlie decided we were NOT gonna do any dorky Christmas songs despite the December date of the show. He brought in a few bluegrass covers we could sprinkle in with our own tunes, things like Stanley Brothers, etc. This idea is something that has stuck with us all these years with us looking for lesser known holiday or winter themed tunes or otherwise just feels right for some other reason (there is SO much stuff out there). It’s led us to songs from Tom Petty, the Zombies, Roger Miller, Louvin Brothers, Charles Brown and many more that have continued to make the show feel just as cool as we could imagine!

     That first show in Houston was really so much fun! A part of what made that night so special was something that happened as an afterthought. As I recall, I had a Ray Charles CD that I was listening to that had a duet with Betty Carter of the old songbook classic Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

The structure and delivery of the tune just blew me away. We actually took some real time to learn it - there are a lot of lyrics and I learned some jazzy chords to be able to play it a little. We didn’t even know if we would play it, but we had gone so far as to bring a snare drum that Charlie could stir along on and after the show went so well we were called out for an encore. And that was when we performed “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the first time. I’m sure Kelly and I were reading lyrics, but in our memory the crowd went nuts. We got offstage and Charlie commented “Wow, that was great!” so we did it again at the other show in Ft Worth and it was a show stopper again. I remember talking to some folks after the show and they asked me if I had written the song! That really surprised me, but I guess in 1999 not that many people knew about it. It has been recorded a million times since, but it was and continues to be a special thing for us. We even found some old photos from that night - man do we look young!

Years later a fan brought me a recording he had bootlegged from the Fort Worth show that first year. We certainly thought that would be the only Christmas shows we would ever do, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

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A Tradition Was Born

       There are a million events trying to separate you from your hard earned dollars under the guise of good old fashioned holiday fun. I can’t remember if I was skeptical when Rusty asked us to reprise the Robison family Christmas the next year, but I personally have made it known that I feel like the last person on the planet to be part of an annual Christmas show.  If I am known for anything it is super sad Country songs - what I would see as the antithesis of the idealized fare that usually constitutes commercial holiday experience. Just not my bag. And yet, we agreed to do the Houston show again and I guess our agent at the time booked a few more around Texas. We grabbed our brother-in-law, John “Lunchmeat” Ludwick back from the first year, who has been with us every year since, and hit the road!

Thinking about what to do for a string of holiday shows made wonder where the songs would come from.  I think that second year we very much wanted an excuse to sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” again. We wanted to try to avoid beating fans over the head with the same five Christmas songs you seem to hear everywhere you go, something we’ve maintained throughout the years pulling inspiration from many different places.

I had done a tour with a wonderful songwriter and poet from Knoxville named RB Morris, just us two in a van for a month, and what I remembered most is a song he would play every night called A Winter’s Tale. He’s one of those songwriters that’s really a poet in their own right, and I knew I wanted to include this song in our set - a beautiful image of the holidays.

I don’t remember too much about that year, but we cobbled together a show Kelly and I, and a tradition for us was born. In January of 2001, our first child was born, and somehow something began to slowly make sense to me. My family’s holidays, like many in the 70’s that weathered horrible divorces and multiple awkward and forced holidays, I found that I had no holiday traditions. As the new millennium started, by total accident, Kelly and I started our own tradition of family, music, and the holidays.