Stepping out of the shadows to sing a song with her husband, songwriter and producer Bruce Robison, on Tuesday night at private club the Pershing, Austin country singer Kelly Willis marveled at the setting. Dozens of members and invited guests were soaking up the house band's sweet renditions of songs from Willie Nelson's repertoire, in celebration of the Texas icon's 86th birthday. "It's fun being married to this guy," she remarked. "He's always got something going on."
Mostly what Robison has had going on the past couple of years is The Next Waltz, an endeavor that's part record label, part recording studio, part show presenter, part film producer — basically a wild shot at navigating the landscape of popular music in the 21st century. On this night, it involved gathering a couple dozen of his local musician pals for an evening that felt as if the spirit of Jerry Jeff Walker's live "Viva Terlingua" album had bypassed Luckenbach and landed right in the heart of East Austin.
Our short Austin360 video captures a few highlights, including Robison leading the band on "Crazy," "Sad Songs and Waltzes" and "Funny How Time Slips Away," plus guest turns from Miles Zuniga, Dan Dyer, Kaitlin Butts and Dallas Wayne. Many more singers took part, including Darden Smith, Shinyibs members Kevin Russell and Kelley Mickwee, Gary P. Nunn, Cody Canada, Bonnie Bishop and Paula Nelson, Willie's daughter. The ace house band included guitarist Geoff Queen, keyboardist Trevor Nealon, harmony singer Jamie Lin Wilson, pedal steel player Marty Muse, Wood & Wire banjo playerTrevor Smith and, surprisingly, Reckless Kelly co-leader Willy Braun on drums, with his brother Cody Braun on fiddle.
The whole evening of music will show in full tonight (Wednesday, May 1) at 7 p.m. Central Time on The Next Waltz's Facebook page.