My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Aaron Watson – ‘The Underdog’

the underdogAlthough it is an independent release, our Spotlight Artist’s brand new album The Underdog is produced by the always reliable Keith Stegall, who does a great job.

Aaron Watson should have been a huge star years ago, but he has been plowing his own furrow making real country music in Texas, and doggedly building up a fanbase. He addresses his career in the part-spoken valedictory ‘Fence Post’, touching on the fight between compromise and integrity, and the current state of country music. A record executive is shown telling Aaron he “don’t have what it takes to make it here in Nashville”, before coming back once Aaron has honed his skills and developed his fanbase to what even a record company man can see is “commercial appeal”. Aaron’s response, in both adversity and triumph, is to affirm:

I’d never sell my soul to rock and roll and rap and wear those tight skinny jeans
‘Cause you know I’d rather sing my old songs than be a puppet on a string
I’ll wear what I wanna wear
I’m gonna sing what I wanna sing
Heaven knows all I need is my faith, my friends, my fans and my family
Besides I’d rather be an old fence post in Texas than the King of Tennessee

The somber opening ‘The Prayer’ is a powerful imagining of the conversion of Johnny Cash:

There’s the man in white
His words are painted red
There’s power in his blood
And only truth in what he said
There’s the man in black
With the beetle in his vein
Lying flat on his back this is the prayer he once prayed

He said
My mountain is a molehill
My throne’s a busted chair
His crown is turned to rust and it’s all tangled in my hair
This high horse that I ride on is gonna buckle at the knee
On my castle made of sand
I cannot be the King of Peace

This is a quite remarkable song, and it’s brave to sequence such a challenging song right at the beginning of the album.

As powerful, and even more moving because it is so personal, is ‘Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song)’, a wistfully poetic elegy to Aaron’s daughter Julia, who died soon after birth in 2011. The admirable title track may be addressed to his other children, offering sensible life advice about leading a good life, ranging from not living on credit, to reacting to adversity. Family memories are explored in the warm hearted ‘Family Tree’.

On the lighter side, a brace of songs were inspired by Aaron’s wife. ‘Wildfire’ is a pleasant mid-paced love song which is catchy and attractive if not earth-shattering, while ‘Blame It On Those Baby Blues’ is similarly likeable. ‘That Look’ is quite pretty, and has the honor of being Aaron’s first single to chart on Billboard. ‘One Of Your Nights’ is my favourite of the love songs, a sweet song about returning to her loving arms after a bad day.

The rapid paced ‘Freight Train’ is quite a good song about separation from a loved one due to the needs of his career but is so fast and one-note melodically it’s hard to decipher the lyrics. ‘Getaway Truck’ is an up-tempo love song which could do with a bit more melody. The perky ‘That’s Gonna Leave A Mark’ is more melodic.

Aaron’s Texas roots influence ‘That’s Why God Loves Cowboys’, a respectful and perhaps somewhat idealised tribute to cowboys and cowgirls and their care of the environment. It also has a smooth attractive melody. ‘Rodeo Queen’ is written from the point of view of a lovelorn rodeo clown, and is the only track where I don’t really like the production/vocal arrangement although it’s an interesting story.

Overall, an excellent album from one of the most underrated performers in country music.

Grade: A

3 responses to “Album Review: Aaron Watson – ‘The Underdog’

  1. jaredrexclark March 18, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I am very impressed with it. The best album I’ve heard in a long time. Not a bad song on the album and I believe Aaron Watson’s popularity will only continue to grow due to this album.

  2. Pingback: Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2015 | My Kind of Country

  3. J H in Texas March 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Aaron Watson stole the fencepost line from Chris Wall. It comes from Chris’ live recording at Gruene Hall on March 2, 1996, Any Saturday Night in Texas. I was there for the recording, and there for the album release. I own the CD and my picture is inside the CD sleeve. Please give credit where it’s due. Watson has got to know who Chris Wall is and this is just egregious.

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