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Album Review: Dale Watson – ‘The Truckin’ Sessions’

truckin sessionsOnce upon a time, a long time ago, on a faraway planet similar to, yet very different from our own, existed a genre of music called Country Music. Within that genre was a subgenre know as Truck Driving Music, a subgenre mostly populated by big men with deep rumbling voices that sounded of too many cigarettes and too much coffee consumed at 3 AM at truck stops and diners around the country. This subgenre was populated by legendary singers such as Dick Curless, Del Reeves, Red Simpson, and Red Sovine. The king of the genre, the man so loved by truck drivers that the Teamsters Union awarded him a gold membership card, was Dave Dudley.

Meanwhile back on our own planet, the genre of Truck Driving Music barely exists at all, at least to judge from what is played by radio and CMT. What we have instead is songs about ruttish young males with their pickup trucks searching for scantily-clad females. Most of it is garbage and almost none of it is memorable.

That the genre of Truck Driving Music exists at all is largely due to the efforts of one brave man, Dale Watson, who has issued three complete albums of Truck Driving Music, starting with The Truckin’ Sessions, issued in 1993. With this album Watson brings the feel of classic Truck Driving Music front and center for the first time in at least a decade and a half , or since the decline of the CB era.

Dale Watson wrote all fourteen of the songs on The Truckin’ Sessions, and while it might have been interesting to hear Dale’s take on some of the old classics of the genre, the product presented here is more than satisfactory , and is a worthy successor to the tunes of Dave Dudley, Red Simpson, et al.

Most of the songs on the album are taken at an up-tempo reminiscent of Dave Dudley’s “Six Days On The Road” or “There Ain’t No Easy Rides”; however, the overall feel of the album owes more to the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Speedy West and Red Simpson, than to anything produced in Nashville.

“Good Luck ‘n’ Good Truckin’ Tonite” opens the album with one of those up-tempo songs referenced above. This track is followed by “Big Wheels Keep Rollin’ ” a song which reminds me of the Merle Haggard classic “White Line Fever”

Big wheels keep rollin’
Feel the rumble ‘neath my feet
Big wheels keep rollin’
The feelin’s a part of me

This is followed by “Heaven In Baltimore” an upbeat number about the girl waitin for him in Baltimore. The arrangement is similar to the ‘freight train’ sound that Buck Owens used during the 1960s.

Heaven in Baltimore
Heaven in Baltimore
Put the pedal to the metal
She’s waitin’ by the door
My Heaven in Baltimore

“Have You Got It On” is a mid-tempo ballad featuring some really nice steel guitar work by band member Ricky (C-Note) Davis. In fact, Davis shines through the album.

I see you roving up by tough look side
You got a six foot Shakespeare stickin’ in the sky
You’re smiling at me from your side view mirror
We might be closer than we appear

Babe, have you got it on?
Babe, have you got it on?
Come on, come on, come back
Babe, have you got it on?

“Makin’ Up Time” picks up the tempo as does “Flat Tire”, a song about a trucker stranded by a flat. The arrangement on this song would fit nicely onto many of Dave Dudley’s efforts.

“Drag Along and Tag Along” is a bluesy ballad in which Davis runs some steel guitar runs that remind one of Speedy West.

“Exit 109″ finds our hero being seduced by a female on the CB radio for a tryst, whereas ” Help Me Joe” tells the tale of a trucker far away from home who is fueled by coffee in his efforts to survive

“Everyday Knuckleclutchin’ Gearjammin’ Supertruckin’ Loose Nut Behind The Wheel” is a trucker’s self-description of himself and his life.

Stopped to grab a cup of Pick-Me-Up
At the Pink Poodle Coffee Shop
I had a pow-wow with a couple of pals
I said I’d meet there on the flip flop
We started tradin’ stories with a little added glory
You’d think we were made of steel
Just your everyday knuckleclutchin’ gearjammin’ …

“You’ve Got A Long Way To Go” is an older truckers words of advice to a young driver.

“Longhorn Suburban” is a mid-tempo ballad extolling the joys of the open road.

The up-tempo arrangement, reminiscent of Del Reeves’ “Looking At The World Through A Windshield”, belies the sad lyrics of “I’m Fixin’ To Have Me A Breakdown”, a tale of a truck driver whose girl has left him.

Despite the solitary nature of the job, most truck drivers are family men and the reason why they persevere is exemplified by “I Gotta Get Home To My Baby”. It’s a topic that has been dealt with many times, and Dale does it as well as anyone.

That big eyed smile and a long hard hug
That’s what I got waitin’ for me
Move out of my way
I gotta get there today
She’s got her heart countin’ on me

I really liked this album and the full and tight sound Dale’s band achieves with only four musicians. Because Dale plays his own lead guitar, he seems to let the steel guitar carry more of the melody lines than might otherwise be the case. Preston Rumbaugh plays bass and Brian Ferriby plays the percussion as it should be played – strictly to keep the rhythm.

Grade: an easy A+

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