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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dale Watson
"Call Me Insane" (Red House Records)

Does Dale Watson realize how important he and his music really are?

The man upholds and advances traditional country music -- the genuine, real people kind that reflects the aspirations, heartaches, and end-of-work-week, shout-and-stomp barroom release that a million corporate Nashville types twiddling computerized studio knobs for a million years couldn't replicate.

From his easy smile and laconic drawl to his silver, mile-high pomp and classy, Grand Ole Opry-redolent populist troubadour clothes, Dale couldn't be anything but the authentic country music last-call luminary his loyal fan base has long lauded.

Call Me Insane was produced by the legendary Lloyd Maines. The unobtrusive, executive flair highlights the songs effectively. Dale's top-level touring trio of slap bass, drums, and pedal steel acquits itself with grit and sheen; they are augmented when appropriate by piano, trombone, saxophone, and trumpet. (Maines himself fills the acoustic guitar chair.) 

Dale's Telecaster rhythms pulse and shimmer, his inventive leads sing out, and his ingratiating vocal warmth lends comfortableness. Whether the clever material is dynamically uptempo, infectious and witty, articulating profound emotions, or charging gleefully into melodic mischief, the players negotiate every backroad and neon-lighted avenue in sterling manner, and their leader maintains good-hearted command.

His objective importance lies in his priceless role as devoted counter to insipid pop-country. That needed function, and simply because the music itself is so damned good, is why Dale Watson is of paramount significance to every listener who knows real country when he is lucky enough to hear it, and who refuses the currently trendy, pre-fabricated ersatz variety.

In fact, Dale Watson and Wayne "The Train" Hancock are of the same rank: crucial, contemporary interpreters of bona fide classic country styles who have every right to be hailed and featured by industry award-bestowers and powers-that-be, but who are too real and uncompromising to ever turn painstakingly manicured 'show me the money' heads.      

As long as music this wood-grained and leather-worked is accessible, does it really matter that the 2015 CMT Awards saluted so much dreckish artificiality? After all, such foolish, televised corporate pageantry doesn't stop appreciators of the real deal from enjoying it. As historians recall Thomas Jefferson remarking when asked how he could abide the free exercise of religions other that his own, "They neither break my arm, nor pick my pocket." So, let the poseurs and clothes-horses prance. Their efforts do not inhibit us.

It occurs to me that Dale Watson must realize how important he and his music are. Because if he didn't, he'd be the only one.

Recommended "Jonesin' For Jones," "A Day At a Time," "I'm Through Hurtin'," "Tienes Cabeza De Palo," "Crocodile Tears," "Mamas Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow Up To Be Babies"

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