DOUG BRUCE - BLUE HEELERS AND PUPPY LOVE
“Out in the backyard where my old dog and I grew up/ dad found her by the railroad track and I raised her from a pup/ she was family and still true to me/ til I laid her in the ground near the tree house tree.” - In The Backyard - Doug Bruce.
You can't take the Texas out of a Lone Star State lad even if he emulates another western swing raised musician and follows his heart to Australia.
“Red and the Coleman County Cowboys played the Will Rogers Coliseum every year. When I was eight while they were doing The Orange Blossom Special they invited me on stage so I got up and did the lonesome train whistle like Boxcar Willie. My dad did the train whistle too. He used to play guitar Chet Atkins style but he moved on to bass - got frustrated with guitar - and settled for bass at it only has four strings.”
Bruce releases his new album, recorded at his Shoo Fly home studio, at Gympie Muster - first single Broke Down Heart has already enjoyed widespread airplay on ABC and community radio.
But In The Backyard shares roots with a previous single Coffey Road .
Both are set in north Texas hometown Aubrey, known by Cherokee name Onega in 1847, and draw from rich family musical history that also includes a canine named Bones .
“Every now and then my dad would bring home a dog,” Bruce, father of two musical sons, revealed.
“One of them was a blue heeler - not sure where he got him - maybe from a cattle rancher somewhere. I got attached to that dog but unfortunately she was hit by a car. I've always had affinity with Australia . When dad toured here he brought back photos and 50c pieces. I was fascinated by them. We also had a kangaroo hide hanging by our fire place as long as I can remember. I thought one day I'll go there but if you told me 13 years ago I was going to meet an Australian girl and move to Australia and become an Australian I would have said you were crazy.”
That meeting happened when Jodie Doyle was touring the U.S. earlier this millennium.
“Jodie and I met at the Legends' Corner - not far from the Exit Inn - down on Broadway,” Bruce fondly recalled.
“She was on a working holiday, she was doing some conferences, had been in New York and was just passing through on her way to New Orleans . We just happened to meet. She came and sat next to me and rest is history. We moved here in 2005.”
MAMA WAS A SAINT
“Mama was a God fearing woman/ she did the best she could/ daddy spent Sunday mornings coming down/ mama taught us all about Jesus/ daddy taught us all about Hank/ daddy raised hell, mama was a saint.” - Mama Was A Saint - Doug Bruce.
Domestic bliss tune Without You is an accurate reflection of the couple's life with their two sons in apple and winery country at Heathcote.
Bruce added that grandma also inspired Things I Can't Put Down - a song warning of the temptations of Tennessee Whiskey , cigarettes and occupational hazards of troubadours on the Lost Highway .
“She still warns me about, don't drink, don't smoke and don't do things like that,” Bruce explained.
“She still goes on about it. She's 97 years old and still kicking and going strong and still on my case. She's been in Aubrey about 80 years. My dad still plays music, mostly in church - he's come off the road and turned his life around. His brother Buddy was a bass player singer and had a couple of his songs recorded - one by Minnie Pearl and one by Red Sovine. He almost had a song cut by George Jones. His daughter Kelli Workman is a singer-songwriter in Nashville . My whole family were musicians - some sang in church. My grandmother was Pentecostal and my mother was southern Baptist. So I had the best and worst of both worlds, depending on how you look at it. The Pentecostal church is a great place to learn how to sing and perform. The church I went to with my grandmother had pedal steel guitar, electric guitar and drums and choir in the back. It was just great music. The Pentecostals always had great music.”
So it was no surprise Message In The Bottle - one of few covers on the album featuring 10 Bruce originals - was penned by a fellow Texan Deryl Dodd who also grew up in the Pentecostal church.
But the album title track - saga of a traveller heading home to his true love - was less specific.
“I've had my share of relationships, I just got lucky when I found my Australian girl,” Bruce confided.
“I had some broken relationships in my past. Inspiration for song-writing comes from life and I've had plenty of those life experiences as far as life goes. I've had relationships where I wished I could be somewhere else.”
ANOTHER WINDING ROAD
“I told her everything would be alright/ I'd call from Dallas next Friday night/ Sunday morning I'd be homeward bound/ she looked at me and said it's OK/ it doesn't really matter anyway/ when you get home I won't be around.” - Another Winding Road - Doug Bruce-Brit Stokes.
Bruce wrote a truck driver into Another Winding Road - equally a metaphor for ruptured romance.
“It was about a truck driver but it could apply to anyone who spends a lot of time on the road,” Bruce elaborated.
“I wrote that with a friend of mine Brit Stokes. We were in a band together in Texas in the nineties before we both went to Nashville . When we were in Nashville he called and said he wanted to demo this song. He kept singing the chorus and it was a really strange chorus. The lines just didn't work - it was about a truck driver. I said ‘why don't we just change that line about a winding road.' He said that's brilliant. So for a third (of the publishing) I'm in. We still communicate. I've recorded a few of his other songs before. He's a really good songwriter.”
Bruce injected A Little Bit Of Love - a song ostensibly about a homeless hombre sleeping in his car - with a Cajun feel.
“Everybody has gone through a heartache,” Bruce said of The Other Side Of A Heartache - a tune he penned with Crakajak singer Harry Jon Nanos.
“Having a relationship end it feels like the end of the world, it's all coming down on me but if you persevere there's light at the end of the tunnel.”
That transition is captured in his positive love songs Without You and She Drives Me Crazy.
“Since Jodie and I became partners in life and our children came along it's my way of expressing that in Without You , Bruce said of a family where one son has already upstaged him.
“It's all about living and trying to make the most of it. We have two boys - 8 and 10. Both are really good on guitar, they only started playing this year. They'll tell me what chords I should be playing, critiquing my performance, and playing drums. Riley the 10 year-old - wrote a song Party Tonight a while ago and posted it on Sound Cloud and it got more hits than mine. It's a dance song.”
So is I Can't Dance penned by Canadian Lorn Wolf about a cowboy at the Lazy Mare bar so besotted by a honky tonk queen he takes dance lessons from Arthur Murray.
And, of course, there's a sting in the tail of this tale.
“The day that Jodie and I met she had gone to see Lorn perform at The Stage or one of the places down Broadway,” Bruce recalled.
“That was just before she came in and met me and changed my life. Lorn is back in Canada and writes children's books and puts out audio CDS with them. Jodie bought his CD in Nashville and played it to me - I thought what a great song and record it. We've had that CD lying around forever and she kept telling me you should record I Can't Dance . I contacted Lorne and he said go for it. He's a really good guy.”
Doug's studio musicians were his band members Rusty Cochrane, Andrew Hosking, Mark D'Rozario and Anthony Taylor. Jacob McGuffie of the Davidson Brothers plays rhythm guitar and Jonathan de Robilliard and Brendan Marolla are on keys.
Victorian singer Amber Joy Poulton provides backing vocals for Another Wing Road and Mama Was A Saint.
Other guests include Nashville steel player, David Spires who performed with Shania Twain, Jo Dee Messina, Josh Turner and Craig Campbell.
Fiddler-mandolinist Jenee Fleenor recorded for Rascal Flatts, Neal McCoy, Terri Clark, Don Williams & Jon Pardi & toured with Martina McBride, Terri Clark and Blake Shelton.
“I got a broke down heart/ it done no running around/ since the night you tore it all apart.” - Broke Down Heart - Doug Bruce.
He's the biggest Aubrey export since famed big band singer Louise Tobin in 1932
And now back to Oceans - he left the legendary western swing band Asleep At The Wheel after meeting Christine Haddow born at Broad Arrow near Kalgoorlie at famed Exit Inn in Nashville in 1977.
She was working for iconic producer and songwriter Cowboy Jack Clement whose home and studio were destroyed in a fire on June 25, 201l, shortly before he died of liver cancer at 82 on August 8, 2013.
Lucky quit the Grammy winning band in 1980 and moved to Fremantle despite an offer by fellow co-founder Ray Benson to stay and appear in the movie Roadie.
Bruce performed with a vast cast in his latest video Broke Down Heart on a property in Central Victoria.
His previous video locales included hometown Aubrey, Dederang Hotel near Wodonga in the Kiewa Valley and Dragon City Lanes bowling alley and Huha Club in Bendigo.
The video for I Know About Lonesome featured Kew actress Camille Hayton.
Camille made international news on a New York subway when a man smitten by her posted an Internet sketch and plea to identify herself.
Camille responded to Patrick Moberg and ignited a flood of TV and print media exposure that swept the world.
“Tennessee whiskey makes me forget the things I wish I had never done/ cigarettes are gonna kill me but I bum them one by one/ with all these bad habits it's a wonder I'm still around/ that list keeps getting longer, all the things I can't put down.” - All The Things I Can't Put Down - Doug Bruce.
And when he toured here in 1979 he played a quarter horse stud at Hoppers Crossing and Cross Keys Hotel , Essendon, with Van Diemen's Land exports The Singing Kettles in the audience.
Three decades later an Auskick clinic on a nearby oval became the killing fields for the Underbelly double murder of Jason Moran and a sidekick by a hired killer known as The Runner .
Red's brother Danny had more pleasant memories of Melbourne as a guest on 3RRR-FM show Fitzroy Cowboys - hosted by Warrnambool born dentist's son and Hit & Run and Wild Cherries lead singer Dan Robinson and expat American pedal steel guitarist Randy Broughton.
2008: All I Need
2010: A Good Place
2012: Made That Way
2014: Somewhere Better To Be