Dale Watson’s legit country music arrives Sunday

by Nick Pittman

While Watson is a favorite among alt. country fans, he is not an alt. country artist. Instead he plays country music the way it should be.

Whether he arrives by plane or by car, Dale Watson could be leaving his Sunday, Aug. 28 show at Artmosphere with a song in his head. (Sabra & The Get Rights open; the show starts at 6 p.m.)

Traveling seems to inspire the Texas country music musician who should be a legend. In 2011, he wrote a revenge tune after Tiger Airways Australia lost a box of CDs the airline charged him $500 to ship. The same year, on his way to a gig in Memphis, he learned his set was canceled and instead booked time at the legendary Sun Studios, fleshing out the beginnings of the album (The Sun Sessions) on the tour bus. The finished album featured him using the same equipment that Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis did. In his usual fashion, the album is an homage to the greats utilizing his love for classic songs and his own creative and original spirit — the end result is tunes very similar to Cash’s early works.

The latter mode of transport is more likely to happen as Watson is the type of guy who would more likely trek show to show via tour bus — he has his commercial driver’s license — than by plane. A purveyor of legit Texas honky-tonk country, he is a throwback to the days when country was actually country, singing he is “too country for country” on “Nashville Rash” and being quoted as saying today’s country is closer to Boyz II Men than Merle Haggard (the dated reference to the ’90s group an indication of how little he keeps up with pop music). Watson’s brutally honest and tongue-in-cheek writings do give a enjoyable spin on the genre that both manages to stay true to its roots and progress it into today’s world. Instead of toeing the old lines, he is crafting his own — all with a deep Texas twang. Lyrics such as “I lie when I drink and I drink a lot,” are humorous without being corny and pandering.

While Watson is a favorite among alt. country fans, he is not an alt. country artist. Instead he plays country music the way it should be — as if he ignored every mainstream country act and song to be recorded after C.W. McCall’s “Convoy.” Of course, this means he won’t be headlining Bayou Country Super Fest next year.

Watson also wins few fans on Music Row as he expresses his (and many others’) thoughts on what has become of the music. “Country My Ass” harpoons the state of the genre — baby-faced stars and pinup girls singing about hard times. Still, it doesn’t seem to matter to him, singing he’d “Well, I’d rather be an old fart than a new country turd.” In fact, his disdain for what is now called country music is so great that he led a movement to start the Ameripolitan Music Awards, showcasing true country sounds.

Likely one of the biggest shows to be booked at Artmosphere, this is a throwback the glory days of both country music and Lafayette’s live music scene — a show you would have expected to see booked at Grant Street a decade and a half ago. Though Watson declares there’s a lot of old farts hanging around (“Old Fart”), the number shrinks every time Sam Hunt talk/sings his way onto country radio. Who knows how many there will be the next time Watson rolls through town?