Dale Watson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The old Dale Watson is back: the recent Dreamland (Koch), a snappy suite of clever, hard-core honky-tonk, is as much fun as anything the singer and guitarist has recorded in the past ten years. Watson's 2001 studio album, Every Song I Write Is for You (Audium), made Lou Reed's Berlin sound peppy--he wrote the disc's maudlin ballads while deep in mourning for his fiancee, who'd been killed in a car accident the year before. But on the new record, produced by Ray Benson, a member of western-swing titans Asleep at the Wheel, the Texan has regained his swagger and his sense of humor. The opening cut, "Honky Tonkers Don't Cry," is less a macho strut than a Bakersfield variation on an old truism from the blues: you've got to laugh to keep from crying. Though Watson is still haunted by the memory of his late fiancee ("I Wish You'd Come Around"), in other songs--"Love at First Sight," "Ain't a Cow in Texas"--he embraces romance. The gritty twang of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard remains the heart of his sound, but he's nearly as indebted here to the playful swing of Bob Wills and Ray Price. The band on the CD includes several members of Asleep at the Wheel as well as frequent Haggard guitarist Redd Volkaert, but past performances in Chicago have proved Watson doesn't need first-call players to make his live sets kick. $10. Friday, May 28, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.

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