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Red House Records is two for two with rockabilly veteran Dale Watson.
The St. Paul label put out 2011's barebones gem The Sun Sessions by Dale Watson & the Texas Two. The Sun Sessions, an impromptu tribute to the historic Million Dollar Quartet—Sun Records legends Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins—all original material, was a down-to-earth delight. Raw beauty that just stuck to the basics. Watson (vocals, guitar), Chris Crepps (bass, backup vocal) and Mike Bernal (drums) stepped into the studio, laid down a clean sound and whipped up one hell of a winner recording.
They pull it off again, making it sound easy as falling off a log, joined this time out by Don Pawlak (pedal steel) and Danny Levin (piano, violin) for the new album, El Rancho Azul by Dale Watson and His Lone Stars.
Watson sings in a swaggering, cock-of-the-walk baritone that has a self-effacing, state-of-the-art smirk to it, the kind of quality that made Garth Brooks's "Friends In Low Places" an instant classic. Watson's got a pretty damned good hand, as well, at lyrics that don't take himself too seriously—especially when it comes to talking about being a bit over-fond of imbibing ("I Lie When I Drink," "Drink, Drink, Drink," "Thanks to Tequila"). Fact is, booze seems to be a steadfast buddy of his. Almost half the songs, when they don't describe playfully drunken mishaps, are about trying—without a whole lot of success—to drown his sorrows in a bottle of beer (he's a pitchman for Lone Star and swears in the liner notes it's the world's best brew).
The material, including the stuff that's about living plain, old, regular sober life—you know, winning and losing at love and such—is great. And, again, all of it written by Watson (no easy trick to keep churning out so much music and not have a throw-away track in the bunch), is first-rate. His voice is a even a little bit richer this time out, and the accompaniment is some of the finest shit-kicking redneck rocking there is. It was recorded, for good measure, by a fella named Jacob Scibe at Pedernales Studios in Austin, Texas, so cleanly it couldn't get any clearer unless the guys were playing right there in the same room with you. This is a quality product all the way around.
Red House Records and Dale Watson have done it again, coming up a killer CD in El Rancho Azul.
Read Dwight Hobbes's "Battle of the albums: Paul Geremia's Love My Stuff vs. Dale Watson & the Texas Two's Sun Sessions" (2011)