Honky-tonk devotee Dale Watson is hardly the first guy to write songs for therapeutic reasons, but on last year's Every Song I Write Is for You (Audium) he worked out some very personal demons in a very public way. In September 2000 his fiancee, Terri Herbert, was killed in a car accident en route to meet him in Houston, and over the next several months he sank deeper and deeper into depression. He began writing and recording songs that directly addressed his feelings, but he didn't feel any better, and on December 28 he retired to an Austin hotel room and washed down a handful of sleeping pills with a bottle of vodka. His road manager found him in time, and Watson decided to commit himself to a state hospital, which released him just a week later. His new label, the Nashville indie upstart Audium, was interested in releasing Watson's mourning songs, but requested that he bolster the ten he'd already cut with a few lighter tunes. I'm guessing those would be the western swing numbers here, but they don't do much to alleviate the album's oppressively maudlin feel. By the time Watson requests another drink to toast his love's memory in "One More for Her" or sings "I See Your Face in Every Face I See" sympathy begins to slide into queasy pity. Not surprisingly Watson takes a somber tone for most of the album, eschewing the rowdy roadhouse swagger of his previous work in favor of melancholy ballads; while his delicately shaded singing effectively conveys the depth of his pain, the washes of synthetic strings and the tepid rhythm section threaten to cheapen the sentiment. Live I expect he'll leaven the atmosphere with songs from other albums. Trent Summar, former front man for the Nashville alt-country band Hank Flamingo, opens with his current outfit, the New Row Mob. Friday, April 12, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Henry Diltz.