You know that old cliché? The one that says that you learn something every day? Well, when it comes to my musical discoveries it’s a phrase that I live by. The sea of talent in the country and Americana music world is seemingly endless, full of artists waiting for your time of day. It’s one of, if not the best problem a music fan could have in today’s world.
Living in the United States, I’ve heard about a million artists in the country and Americana world stemming off of recommendations as well as my own research (and judging by the rate, I’m wondering if there will come a day when that “million” isn’t a hyperbole.) However, no matter how much you dig and dig, you’re unfortunately not going to get to hear everyone. The saddest part of all of this is that the thought rarely crosses to search for talent outside of one’s country of origin. From the likes of Canada we’ve been treated to some great music by the likes of artists such as Lindi Ortega, Corb Lund, Colter Wall, Dean Brody, Whitney Rose, and many more. The United Kingdom is where you’ll find the rising duo Ward Thomas. And of course, there’s another country where you’ll find country music talent as well – Australia.
And this brings us to Doug Bruce, originally from Aubrey, Texas, but now currently residing in Bendingo, Australia. For those who don’t know, Doug has released five studio albums, and has a rich musical background, previously touring around Texas with his band named Cheyenne before pledging himself as a citizen of Australia two years ago. In addition to this, his father and uncle were both involved with music as well.
While this might sound like a lame reason, I think what ultimately works about “Unsung” is that it’s just so damn fun to listen to. Part of this has to do with Doug himself, a naturally great, charismatic vocalist. His vocals lend the traditional country album a great atmosphere that celebrates the songs of an underrated songwriter. Even though the opening track “Bad Weather” uses the metaphor of bad weather to signal the imminent end of a relationship, the driving, bouncy country melody makes you hardly realize that it’s a sad song. The same can be said for the first single, “The Tears”, which is a classic “tear in my beer” honky-tonk country song. Then you have “The Greatest Expert” where our male narrator sits in a bar. He says there’s experts at everything, but when it comes to heartache, he’s the greatest expert of it all. I think the overall “happy” vibe from this album is encapsulated in the track “Whistle Up Some Happiness” which literally tells us to do what the title says and forget about the sorrows in life.
Of course, this is a tribute album first and foremost, so it’s hard to really say if this album is going for any sort of unifying “happy” theme. After all, not everything on this album is happy. “Lie To Me” is a classic ballad that shows a man asking his soon to be ex-lover to lie to him and tell him that she loves him just once more, since the truth is something he can’t handle right now. Then you have the moody “Nothin’ Yet” which tells a peculiar tale of a man who tries to beat the sunrise every day. He’s always beaten though, and by the time the day drags on he realizes that he’s still nothing yet. It’s a mystifying song that doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut meaning, giving it a nice allure.
And while yes, some songs here may sound thematically similar to one another, Doug manages to insert moments in the album that sort of throw you a curve. Towards the beginning of the album your ears are treated to the pleasing western swing sound of “Help The New Family Move In”. The dark, unique piano melody on “Nothin’ Yet” is another awesome musical moment, and the stripped down ending track, “The Night Before the Morning After Game” manages to make the hangover game a fun one to play.
Overall, while some of the themes on “Unsung” may sound similar to each other at times (and really, this is the only thing I can knock on this album), Doug Bruce does an excellent job at holding your attention. The concept for crafting the album turned into one of the best true country albums you’ll find this year. In an album laced with steel guitar, fiddle, and juicy melodies, “Unsung” is an album for the tried and true country fan.
Best Tracks: “Nothin’ Yet”, “Night Before the Morning After Game”, “The Tears”