A Ned LeDoux press shot for upcoming album 'Buckskin.'
Courtesy of All the Buzz

Ned LeDoux Wrote What He Knows, From Rodeos to 'Damn Good' Cowboys, For New Album

Early in his development as a country singer-songwriter, Ned LeDoux heeded the wisdom of his producer and mentor, Mac McAnally.

"He gave me a simple piece of writing advice: write about what you know because it comes a lot easier," LeDoux told Wide Open Country. "That's true because I'm a terrible pretender. I could never write a song or sing somebody else's song that I have no relation with. People would be able to say, 'What's he talking about? He doesn't know that.'"

That's why LeDoux, the son and former drummer of the late rodeo and country music great Chris LeDoux, paints such vivid lyrical pictures about real-life cowboys back home in Wyoming and the fenceless freedom of life on the road on new album Buckskin (out March 11 via Powder River Records): it's what he knows.

Though there's no filler on LeDoux's new 12-song collection, rodeo-themed poem "The Buckskin" and working folks-exalting album closer "Damn Good Cowboy" best exemplify how effectively he furthers his father's legacy.

Ned LeDoux performs during the 2021 Watershed music festival at Gorge Amphitheatre on July 31, 2021 in George, Washington.

Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

At first listen, "The Buckskin" might come across as a revival of the recitation songs associated with the Louvin Brothers, Johnny Cash and other foundational country acts. However, LeDoux points to another group of inspirational artists with his one minute and 42 second poem about that eight-second thrill.

"I've always been a big fan of cowboy poetry," LeDoux explained. "I've had the pleasure to perform at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. I just kind of grew up listening to that stuff. You know, listening to guys like Waddie Mitchell and Baxter Black and Gary McMahan— some of the great cowboy poets. Originally when I wrote the 'Buckskin' poem, I was aiming for making it a song. You know, putting a melody and everything on it. Then as I got to working with it, I went, 'You know, maybe I'll try my hand at more of the spoken word, more of a poem.'

"The poem itself is about my dad's championship ride," LeDoux continued. "It was in 1976 in Oklahoma City for the National Finals Rodeo when he won the bareback championship of the world. It comes from a lot of stories he'd tell about that moment and the horse. I read a few articles where he was talking about it and pieced some things together and got 'The Buckskin.'"

The Chris LeDoux statue unveiled in July 2021 during Cheyenne Frontier Days immortalizes the same moment in history.

"That horse is named Stormy Weather, which is that buckskin horse," LeDoux explained. "It was the 125th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days, and Cheyenne has always meant a great deal to the LeDoux family. Dad rodeoed there for years and of course got to play the main stage, which he always kind of considered his Grand Ole Opry. It means the same for me, as well. Of course to open up for [Garth Brooks] later that evening was a great, great moment."

Brooks' support of Chris LeDoux goes beyond writing that line about worn-out cassette tapes in 1989's "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" and guest appearing on Chris' lone Top 5 country hit, 1992's "Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy." Over the years, the elder LeDoux has received ample credit from Brooks for inspiring a high-energy stage show that continues to pack stadiums.

"[Brooks] has been a really good friend to the family, and we try to show him just as much love and respect back," LeDoux said. "It's cool that he continues to show respect, and that just shows the kind of guy he is."

Fittingly, "The Buckskin" leads into a Chris LeDoux cover, 1981's "He Rides the Wild Horses." That's not the only transition on the album that hat-tips family tradition, as "Damn Good Cowboy" takes a surprise turn near its end.

"I wrote ['Damn Good Cowboy'] with Willy Braun from Reckless Kelly," LeDoux said. "That last part of the song, I guess I wasn't really thinking about Dad at the moment, but it just kind of fell out. This is kind of like talking to my dad, in a way, and I hope that he's proud of the things I've done to pass on the torch between father and son. I always tried to keep Dad's music out there. The catalog of music he has, you could take a trip around the world a couple of times and never repeat a song. I'm proud to carry on the family tradition."

Chris LeDoux's prolific run of 36 albums between 1971 and his 2005 death doesn't even account for every lyrical truth or memorable hook from his creative arsenal, as proven by the backstory of how his son first connected musically with McAnally.

"The way it got started is he produced the last three albums that Dad put out," LeDoux recalled. "So we already had that connection, and I met him a few times back then. But then we got reacquainted seven years ago, and I was working on finishing a song that my dad had started. My dad had a big box of notes and different ideas for songs, and I thought 'maybe I could try to finish one.' Then Mac found out about it and invited me to his place, and we sat down together and finished this little idea about a rusty pickup truck full of posts and barbed wire ['We Ain't Got It All']."

The younger LeDoux first made an impact as a solo artist with the 2016 EP Forever a Cowboy. He followed that up with the albums Sagebrush (2017) and Next in Line (2019).

Buckskin Tracklist

1. "The Mountain"
2. "Open Road"
3. "Only Need One"
4. "Hey Hey"
5. "This Ain't My First Rodeo"
6. "Upside of the Ground"
7. "Cards in San Antone"
8. "The Buckskin"
9. "He Rides the Wild Horses"
10. "Rodeo Dreams"
11. "Cowboy is His Name"
12. "Damn Good Cowboy"

READ MORE: Chris LeDoux Statue Unveiled For Cheyenne Frontier Days' 125th Anniversary