Welcome to another selection from Proper’s periodic trawls through the warehouse in search of forgotten classics.
The only criteria for inclusion is that the album concerned sold less than one copy in the last year and consequently rests quietly in a forgotten corner – on the Dusty Shelf. Could you provide a home and receive unconditional love and companionship in return? Ask us nicely and we’ll send you one……
Dale Watson “Blessed or Damned” (Hightone)
Let’s return to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of May 1996. Football was a month away from “coming home” and scowling scallies Oasis had replaced Satan’s spawn (aka Take That) at number one in the charts. Fortunately for the discerning UK listener there was some good news, in the form of a new album from Hightone honky-tonker, Dale Watson.
Featuring fourteen self-penned slabs of authentic blue collar country, tipping his Cowboy Lloyd Cross to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, “Blessed” was in essence part two of the previous year’s “Cheatin’ Heart Attack” – Watson’s first fully-realised studio album.
Many similar themes re-emerged second time round, not least of which was an evident dissatisfaction with current country trends, manifesting itself this time round in “A Real Country Song” – a cousin of his previous “Nashville Rash.” Several more songs about Watson’s perennial favourite subject matter, trucking also appeared, and would ultimately lead to two volumes of songs about highway life.
However, the standout comes in the shape of “That’s What I Like About Texas”, when Dale shares microphone duties with Ray Price and Willie Nelson alumni, Johnny Bush. Alabama-born, Austin-inhabiting Watson unashamedly pays tribute to his adopted State, be it Bob Wills-referencing “twin fiddles, steel guitars” or those cold cabinet staples, “Shiner”, “Pearl” and “Lone Star”.
The up-tempo tunes rattle along thanks to the efforts of Texas guitar slinger, David LeRoy Biller. And had Jools Holland lassoed Watson in London for “Later”, he’d have had a field day interpreting some fine boogie woogie from Asleep at the Wheel pianist Floyd Domino.
Reviewing “Blessed” upon its release, “No Depression” called it “the real deal.” Almost a decade and a half later, it remains the perfect antidote to the airbrushed CMT generation. Like all good records, it encourages further investigation – not just into the rest of Watson’s back catalogue but also the heritage that he taps into and brings back to life. Conway Twitty lives!
Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint
Blessed Or Damned
Cowboy Lloyd Cross
A Real Country Song
It’s Over Again
It’s All Behind Us Now
That’s What I Like About Texas
Everyone Knew But Me
Sweet Jessie Brown
Truckstop In La Grange
Shortcut To The Streets of Gold