The classic honky-tonk of Dale Watson's third album, I Hate These Songs (Hightone), makes it clear that he hasn't taken on the music pioneered by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Faron Young as some kind of fashion statement--he's absorbed it into his bloodstream. On previous albums Watson wrote a few too many nostalgic numbers about country music, like "A Real Country Song" and "Nashville Rash," but this time around he's supplemented the title track (about the empathy rush a sad country ballad can produce) with originals that themselves fit squarely into the canon. Floated on languid steel guitar and Watson's laconic, tumble-down vocals, the vivid tales of too much drinking and not enough love are familiar but always smart ("I swear I'll never drink again, again," from "Hair of the Dog"), and the new album finds him paces ahead of the less subtle humor of earlier tunes like "Cheatin' Heart Attack." He's yet to produce anything quite as enduring as the best work of his idols, but at least he's getting down to business instead of cracking his knuckles. Saturday, 10:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.