Bret Raper at the AWA Awards. Courtesy photo

Bret Raper at the AWA Awards. Courtesy photo


How does a court commissioner from southern Indiana become a western swing music sensation and win the Academy of Western Artists’ Western Swing Album of the Year? Ask fiddler, Bret Raper, 57, whose first album, Somewhere Near Austin, earned him the coveted award in March.

In less than a year, Raper’s album topped charts in the western swing genre—a style of country music influenced by jazz and popularized in the 1930s—surpassing established musicians such as Leon Rausch, a former bandmate of country music star George Strait.

Raper in the studio. Photo by Jim Krause

Raper in the studio. Photo by Jim Krause

Raper, a Monroe County Circuit Court commissioner, has no intention of selling his music, which is not available in stores or through online streaming services. But after sending the CD to a few DJs in Austin, Texas, the mecca for western swing, the album began getting radio airtime in the region.

“It started showing up in the rankings as top album and grew into the nomination,” says Raper’s wife, local attorney Angela Parker.  “It’s really well-done, though. It’s well-produced, and it has some incredible musicians on it.”

Some of those musicians include Gary Carter, Robby Turner, Lloyd Wood, Rob Hajacos, and others based in Indiana and Nashville, Tennessee.

In addition to more famous names, others close to Raper are on the album. Parker has a solo, singing “Sugar Moon,” and her son, Greg Parker, and daughter, Hannah Williamson, also sing.

“There really are lots of connections [on this album], not only family, but good friends that Bret’s played music with throughout the years,” Parker says.

Raper has performed as a supporting musician for Tom T. Hall, a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. He also plays with The Lloyd Wood Show, formerly the house band at the Red Barn Jamboree in Brown County for many years.

“I still play with his band,” Raper says. “He’s the one playing ‘Cherokee Native’ on my album.”

Now, as an award-winning musician, Raper is working on his second album. Like the first one, it will be unavailable to the masses, and the only way to secure a copy will be to ask him for one.