Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., May 14, 2004
Dale WatsonDreamland (Koch) When you Google "hardcore honky-tonk," the first hits oughtta be Dale Watson. Throughout his career, Austin's true-blue country troubadour has slugged it out in bars, concert halls, and of course honky-tonks worldwide. Dreamland is already Watson's seventh full-length, and all that heavy traveling and hard work shines. This is Watson in his prime. With Ray Benson as producer, the disc features a slew of Asleep at the Wheel pals Jason Roberts, Dave Sanger, Cindy Cashdollar, and Floyd Domino as well as Watson's band and buddies like Redd Volkaert and Ralph Mooney. As you'd expect, there's superpicking and impeccable country grooves throughout. It's been a while since Watson cut an album like this; a sentimental tribute to his late fiancée and a live collection recorded in London constitute two of his last three albums. In many ways, Dreamland is a return to the form of his earlier work. There's plenty of playful wordplay on tunes like "Ain't a Cow in Texas" and "Way Down Texas Way," a tip of the hat to Tom T. Hall on "Fox on the Run," and even a stab at bluegrass with a swinging edge, "Pretty Girls." Watson continues to keep the glow of trad country burning, singing with extraordinary confidence and writing songs both powerful and passionate.