Tony Cummings quizzed the pastor of an Alaskan cowboy church, DOUG BRINEY
The title of the debut album by Doug Briney, 'It's All Country', spelled out what this American singer's approach to music. Naming influences ranging from Eddie Arnold and Larry Gatlin through to Toby Keith and Trace Atkins ensured that Doug's music is, in the words of the Cross Rhythms reviewer, "solid, down home modern country music." What sets Doug apart from the hundreds of other current practitioners of country gospel music are two things. One is that he lives and works not in America's Southern states but in Anchorage, Alaska. The second thing is that Doug is the pastor of a "cowboy church".
Cross Rhythms quizzed the singer and began by suggesting that Alaska didn't seem the best possible location for a country act. He responded, "I've always been a musician with strong country roots. Leading music in churches for the past 27 years it is always fun when someone new is playing with me. I often sing the same songs they know but with a kinda 'twang', it normally takes them a little while to get used to playing with me. Alaska is a great place for country music but not so great from the business side. We simply don't have the population or venues to support it as a viable way to make a living. I will be doing a lot of traveling and touring to make it work. But I do love Alaska and right now, it is home."
So what is Doug's cowboy church all about? "We began the Cowboy Church of Anchorage almost four years ago now. We are a Southern Baptist church without a lot of tradition. I preach each week in my jeans, hat and western shirt. I work hard at not using a lot of big words and really focus on the practical application of the Bible and faith in our lives. We use all country music as the genre for our worship. Many of the songs we use are the same songs you will hear in other churches, but we use a steel guitar, banjo, upright bass and a couple guitars as well as a fiddle. After I graduated from college I worked as a Music/Youth Minister in church for nearly 20 years. In 2004, I took a senior pastorate at a small church here in Talkeetna, Alaska. We moved back to Anchorage in 2008 and in January 2009 we began the Cowboy Church of Anchorage."
Doug was actually born in Long Beach, California and grew up in Yorba Linda. By age two he was singing his first solo in church. Reminisced Doug, "I grew up playing in my school's band, singing in youth choirs and attended college as a music major. To pinpoint something that spurred my love for music simply is something I can't do, I've always loved music. I asked Christ into my life when I was seven years old. The pastor's name was Bob Norvel and the church was Rose Drive Baptist Church in my hometown of Yorba Linda, California. I remember when I got home from church that day, I couldn't wait to tell everyone what I had done, starting with all my neighbors telling them about Christ saving me and they too could know him."
Doug continued his story, "Way back in college the group I toured with did some recording and we sold those in the churches we sang in. I don't even have a copy of it anymore. It was fun but pretty rough. Then about 12 years ago I did a bit of recording in my dining room to make a CD to send to my folks for Christmas. That was fun, but again it was pretty rough. I remember doing a few voice overs and even did a quartet with myself. For 'It's All Country' I really wanted to do it right. I worked very hard on it and am proud of the project. The very first song I selected for the project was 'More Than Just A Farm To Me' written by Pat Kelley and Ed Levitt. I really love that song and I did from the first time I heard it. It reminds me of my grandfather who owned a small farm in Illinois. I was lucky enough to spend the summer with him in my 13th year and learned a lot about farming."
Another of Doug's favourite songs on 'It's All Country' is "Good, Bad And Hard". He said, "Recording it went really smooth as it truly is a fun song for me to sing. I enjoy doing the song live and love watching people's reactions to the song. I guess another song I really like is 'The Man My Dog Thinks I Am'. It is simply a fun song but holds a lot of truth. I've always had a dog in my life and the one thing that has never changed regardless of breed or sex of the dog is they love me - when I'm mean, when I'm sad, when I'm at my best they don't care and never judge me. They just love me and want to please me. This song though was probably the hardest for me to record. Try as I might, I kept having terrible timing issues. Charlie with Mirror Studios here in Anchorage finally called me out and we talked it through. He was able in about two minutes to help me and the very next take I nailed it. Since then, I have not had a problem with it."
It's taken Doug quite a while to deliver his album debut. The singing pastor is quite philosophic about the wait. "The one thing that I've known for many years but still have to be reminded of all the time is 'waiting on God'. I'm like anyone else out there and I like my instant results and gratification. Waiting is hard for me. I like my computers to be fast, my internet connection to be screaming fast and when I have a question I like to use my phone and Google to get an instant answer. Waiting on God's timing and not relying on my own talents and abilities is very difficult. I can't say I've learned that lesson, but I'm reminded of it often. He who waits on the Lord will mount up with wings as eagles. God's timing is always perfect."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.