Audio ::: Dale Watson

18 February 2011, 21:16

I first found Dale Watson performing at the Broken Spoke in Austin my senior year of high school, sometime in late 1994 or early 1995. His sound was much in the vein of Merle Haggard and Conway Twitty, and at the time, Austin was in the midst of a resurgence of rockabilly and roots/retro country music, and all the kids were getting out to the clubs to 2-step or swing dance.

A good portion of my Saturday nights were spent at the Spoke shuffling around its concrete floor with a red ticket stapled to my collar, signifying my underage status to the waitstaff, the bartender and rest of the patrons. I bought his album “Cheatin’ Heart Attack” at the first show I saw, and thru the countless plays, I learned the words to all those songs.

I’ve been listening to Dale’s music now for about 18 years. I can’t count the number of his shows that my wife and I have been to throughout that time. A friend of mine had Dale performed at his wedding. Dale’s music is so entrenched in my own conscious that when my kids were babies and they’d wake up at night, I’d rock them back to sleep singing his song “Honky-Tonkers Don’t Cry”.

Dale is an Austin icon and while you can often find him performing at Ginny’s Little Longhorn for Chicken-Shit-Bingo on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t always that way. Born in 1962 in Alabama, the family moved to Houston (Pasadena) during his teenage years. In 1988, after graduating high school, Dale moved on to LA and then on to Nashville to pursue a “traditional” country music career. After facing many roadblocks to success, he found Nashville’s commercial country music machine not to his liking, as chronicled in his anthem “Nashville Rash”. His formal departure from mainstream country music landed him in Austin with other country music outcasts and rebels in what became a roots country/rockabilly revolution that happened in Austin during the mid-1990’s.

While amazingly talented on the guitar, his life has also been quite tragic. In September 2000, his fiancé Terri Herbert was killed in a car wreck that sent him into a downward spiral. Aided by booze and a fistful of pills this depression culminated in a New Year’s Eve suicide attempt. He was institutionalized in Austin to recover from his mental breakdown and those events were chronicled in the Zalman King documentary, “Crazy Again”.

After his recovery, Dale took a break from his music and moved to Baltimore to help out his ex-wife and daughters. For a time the hiatus appeared to be a permanent departure, but after stabilizing personally and getting his family on a firm footing, he returned to Austin to continue his music.

A very prolific musician, and with a new album released every couple of years, he creates a renewed vigor to get his fans out on the dance floor. Some songs are indeed corny and fun, some philosophical or a social commentary, yet others spiritual. Whatever the message, all his songs are great to dance to. At his live shows, Dale makes the rounds to visit with the audience and while on stage will always accept a song request from the dancers with a smile.

If you like the country music they play on the local radio stations, then you may not like Dale. If you live in Texas and don’t like country music, then give Dale a try. His music is not common and may very well fill only a diminishing niche, but is well worth a listen.

His next Houston performance is Friday, March 18th at Blanco’s on W. Alabama. Be sure to check out his schedule, and official website.

Most of the videos on YouTube of Dale Watson is Live, and there’s not much of any of it with quality sound, so I’ve tried to couple together a few songs that did (some with video, some without.)

Photo from Jeff G Photography, London England.

Comment

#1 · Angela Martinez

21 02 2011 - 20:04

Bravo! I’ll be for sure giving Dale Watson a try.