My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Dale Watson – ‘El Rancho Azul’

MI0003479813Released just two years ago, El Rancho Azul continues Watson in the tradition of what’s made his career – hardcore country music appealing to honky tonkers out of Texas. This time he’s working with a new record company, Red House Label, which is known for releasing contemporary folk music.

True to form, the album is classic Watson. Of the fourteen tracks, six are drinking songs that rank among the most memorable songs on the album. “I Lie When I Drink” is a fast-paced fiddle drenched barroom anthem about a guy who throws ‘em back when he misses his girl. “I Drink to Remember” is a twang-drenched juxtaposition of a couple in two separate barrooms. The clever lyric has the guy drinking to remember the good times while she drinks to drown out the bad.

In “Drink, Drink, Drink” Watson has nothing but booze to lean on while he channels a wonderful hybrid of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. “I Hate To Drink Alone” begins as a variation, but sinks into yet another my-baby-left-me song. Watson may hate drinking by himself, but it’s just what he’s doing, even though he can justify it by keeping her memory on his mind.

“Smokey Old Bar” is an odd-one-out, a bit too cluttered musically and far too soft by Watson vocally. The final drinking song, “Thanks To Tequila” finds Watson back in Haggard mode, channeling him spectacularly.

Besides the domination of drinking songs, El Rancho Azul contains “Daughter’s Wedding Song,” a wedding waltz that’s among the most commercial song he’s ever recorded. While the track is beautifully constructed, it’s so against the grain for Watson, it feels out of place not just one of his albums but in his catalog as a whole. But as a stand-alone song, it works quite well.

As far as I’m concerned, El Rancho Azul is just more of the same from Watson. By this late point in his career, it’s easy to know exactly what to expect when listening to one of his albums. That being said, he’s still excellent at what he does, which is second to none.

Grade: B+

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