Country music is where rock 'n' roll was circa 1962 B.B. (before Beatles) and 1975-76 lots 'n' lots of photogenic hat-hunks and pop(py)-tarts playing corporate-approved approximations of the real stuff. Dale Watson, an Austin performer flying beneath the Nashville radar, puts the "tree" back in country as an insurgent devoted to hardcore honky-tonk styles defined by Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzell, and Merle Haggard. Watson isn't "alt-country" and he's not "retro." He's just fiercely, resolutely country. Scorning and rejecting dilution of the music he loves, Watson's wiry approach is as robust and potent as a shot of Jack Daniel's. Recorded in a Henderson, Tennessee, cabin once owned by Johnny Cash, Watson's latest opus, From the Cradle to the Grave (Hyena), pays homage of a sort to the Man In Black. However, Cradle is the very best sort of tribute Watson makes the Man's boom-chicka-boom credo his own, and his worldly baritone is as real as cracks in the sidewalk and that Sunday morning coming down.
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