My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Dale Watson – ‘Blessed Or Damned’

Dale’s second album continued his assertion of being too country for country music, as he works his way through a collection of self-penned material covering all the traditional themes of country music. The music is dominated by steel guitar, and as traditional country as one can imagine.

The low key title track is a pensive consideration of the contrast between those musicians who achieve fame and fortune, and those, like himself, struggling in obscurity:

Read about a singer
That took home all the awards
I guess he’s one of the chosen few
That’s his reward
But there’s a troubadour in a beer joint
And he’s singing to empty chairs and his empty cans
No, it ain’t hard to figure out
Who’s blessed or damned

I hope heaven has a place
For those of us who lost our way
And I pray He’ll understand
And bless the damned

He appeals to DJs to play ‘A Real Country Song’, i.e. one of the classics of the past.

Trucking songs had enjoyed a fad in the 1970s, but had long fallen out of favour with mainstream country music. Dale, defiantly non-commercial, chose to include a brace of trucking songs on this album. ‘Truckin’ Man’, about a wannabe trucker, chugs along efficiently with trucking rhythms. ‘Truckstop In La Grange’ is a bit less interesting.

The gospel sounding ‘Fly Away’ is really a cheerful drinking song. Traditional honky tonker ‘Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint’ is a fond tribute to a favourite drinking spot. The stylishly performed western swing ‘Poor Baby’ is a sardonic, faux-sympathetic look at a constant loser who drinks too much and too often, with fabulous steel guitar.

‘It’s Over Again’ is a very good sad song about a marriage in a repeat pattern of breaking up and getting back together. The wearied ‘It’s All behind Us Now’ looks back at a failed relationship once all the dust has settled.

The sober ‘Everyone Knew But Me’ is about the depressing enlightenment of a man once blinded by love and fooled by a cheating spouse he thought was an “angel”.

There are a couple of story songs, the better of which is the compelling mining saga ‘Shortcut To The Streets Of Gold’. The gloomy ‘Sweet Jessie Brown’ is about a girl whose youthful dreams of fame are derailed by love and motherhood, and who is then driven to suicide by the loss of her child.

The likeable fiddle led ‘That’s What I Like About Texas’ paints a rosy picture of the musical life of the Lone Star State, and is performed as a duet with veteran Johnny Bush.

‘Cowboy Lloyd Cross’ is about an Austin maker of cowboy hats, and is not all that interesting.

Overall, an excellent album in retro 60s/70s country style.

Grade: A

One response to “Album Review: Dale Watson – ‘Blessed Or Damned’

  1. newtexian June 5, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    “A Real Country Song” is one of my all time favorites from Dale Watson.

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