San Angelo was Aaron Watson’s sixth album and his first album to reach Billboard’s Country Albums chart, peaking at #60 in 2006. From this point forward all of Aaron’s albums would receive nationwide exposure.
The album opens up with “Heyday Tonight” a good up-tempo country honker that would have fit in the repertoire of any dance hall band of the period. Aaron composed this song as he did the second song on the album “Good Thing Going” about a good love that got away due to the narrator’s failure to tend to business. It’s a bit lightweight in terms of lyrics, but it is pleasant listening.
The third song finds Aaron covering a Frank Dycus – Jim Lauderdale composition “In Harm’s Way” that could easily have been a hit for someone. Frankly, I would have expected George Strait to have wound up with this song.
I didn’t know my heart
Was in harm’s way
I couldn’t see the truth
Till it was in my face
If I’d seen it coming
I could have turned away
I didn’t know my heart
Was in harm’s way
Aaron co-wrote “3rd Gear & 17” with Drew Womack, another song of lost love, this one with a football backdrop about a fellow who left to play college football, losing the girl he left behind.
“Unbelievably Beautiful” is another Aaron Watson composition, with a laid-back, almost jazzy vibe to it. While I don’t think the song had any potential as a single, it makes a nice change of pace within the context of the album.
“Haunted House” is another Watson composition, this one a fine mid-tempo exposition of a love gone wrong.
Willie Nelson has written many fine songs in his long career. “I’m A Memory” wasn’t a huge hit for Willie (#28 for Willie on RCA in 1971) but it was always one of my favorite of his songs. Aaron does the song justice with an arrangement similar to Willie’s arrangement but with steel guitar and fiddle added to the mix.
I’m a game that you used to play
And I’m a plan that you didn’t lay so well
And I’m a fire that burns in your mind
So close your eyes I’m a memory
The title track “San Angelo” is one of those hard-edged about love and heartbreak that Aaron writes so convincingly. The medium-slow tempo fits the song perfectly.
She said time would heal my broken heart
And I’d find a true companion for my soul
You know she was right, we were wrong
Nothing more than a pretty song
About a boy who loved a girl
In San Angelo
“Except For Jessie” is Aaron’s wonderful tribute to Waylon Jennings and his lady Jessi Colter . The song is a four minute biography of Waylon’s life. Although a bit of a novelty, with a sound reminiscent of some of Waylon’s songs, it is an effective song. I doubt Waylon ever got to hear the song (I don’t know when it was written) but he surely would have approved.
Well, before she came along he was lonesome, on’ry and mean
It was his way or the highway
But she had a way that he’d never seen
He’d been livin’ hard and fast
All his takin’ was takin’ it’s toll
And it took a good hearted, hard headed angel
To help him gain control
Bruce Robison wrote the slow ballad “Blame It On Me”. It’s a nice song, and Aaron gives the song a proper reading.
‘All American Country Girl ” is the worst song on the album, a lightweight piece of fluff that is would work well on the dance floor. It’s not bad – I’d give the song a C+ – but the rest of the album is better.
Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” was an interesting choice for Aaron to cover. I am afraid that Buddy is slowly being forgotten as I hear no trace of his influence in today’s country music whereas through the 1980s it was fairly common for his songs to pop up on country albums. Mickey Gilley’s cover of this song in 1980 went to #1 and Peter & Gordon had a #14 pop hit with the song in 1965. I really like Aaron’s recording which nicely combines fiddle and steel as well as featuring more piano that the rest of the album.
Aaron co-wrote “Nobody’s Crying But The Baby” with Gary Nicholson. I think this song would have made an effective single for someone:
With her little one in one arm
And the laundry in the other
She could sure use a helping hand
But that’s just the life of a single mother
Somebody’s calling on the phone
Somebody’s knocking at the door
She forgets and burns the dinner
Throws it across the kitchen floor
And for a moment she wants to give up and break down
But nobody’s crying but the baby
She ain’t far from going crazy
And there are times she wonders how she’s going to make it
But she’s got to be strong enough for two
She’s gotta do what he wouldn’t do
No time for tears around here
Nobody’s crying but the baby
I thoroughly enjoy this album from start to finish each time I pull it out to play. I’d give it an 4.5 stars. Ray Benson produced the album, and this is a country album – no doubt about it.