Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stephen Bruton

The other night, Jeff Bridges won a Golden Globe for Acting in the new movie Crazy Heart, the story of a broken down Country singer trying to make a comeback. I hadn't really heard of the movie until a couple of weeks ago when the Washington Post ran an article and interview with the Director. As it turns out, the musical director for the film was Stephen Bruton, who also composed some of the original songs with T-Bone Burnett. This was one of Stephen's last projects before his untimely death last May.

I first became aware of Stephen when he produced Jimmie Dale Gilmore's album After Awhile and other albums by Austin artists. He had moved to Austin about the same time that I did, but I really didn't know much about him and other than the songs he produced, I really never did learn much about him, or even hear him play.

That changed a few years ago, when Laura and I visited Austin and stayed with one of our good friends who suggested that we all go to the Saxon Pub (little dive on South Lamar where I had played a couple of times in the late 80's and early 90's) on Sunday evening to hear a little pickup band called the Resentments. They did a weekly show at 7 pm (very early for Austin) and packed the place. The cover was a ridiculous $5. The show was great. The Resentments were basically, Stephen, Jon Dee Graham, Jud Newcomb, and Bruce Hughes, although they weren't always there. They would trade lead vocals, pass the bass around, switch between acoustic and electric. Stephen would pull out the mandolin for some songs and then kick ass on electric lead. I bought a few of his albums and albums by the Resentments (and downloaded others - legally!!!).

We visited Austin again last spring and made another trip to the Saxon Pub. Stephen was noticeably frail and wore a hat throughout the evening. The music was still wonderful, though perhaps Stephen did less of the singing and was more in the background (or maybe that's just hindsight). A couple of months later he was gone. So, here's some of the stuff that I didn't know. Stephen went to high school in Fort Worth with T-Bone Burnett and after college began playing guitar for Kris Kristofferson, which he did for many years before moving to Austin. He's recorded a bunch of records on his own. Last year he played guitar on Kris' most recent album, wrapping production a couple of weeks before his death. Check out some of his songs on iTunes. I particularly enjoy Bigger Wheel, The Clock, Nobody Gets Hurt (Resentments) and more when they pop up randomly on my iPod.

And check out Crazy Heart as well. See if Jeff Bridges and the movie makers have captured the flavor of Austin music. We're looking forward to seeing it when we have a chance.

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