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Music Review: Dale Watson – From the Cradle to the Grave

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So what would you do if one of your best friends, who also happened to be a famous Hollywood personality, invited you to a famous location to record your next album? If you’re Dale Watson and that friend happens to be Johnny Knoxville and the location in question is the Man in Black’s very own cabin/studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee you of course say, “Oh hell yes!”

With that, Dale Watson has released what is possibly his best album to date with From the Cradle to the Grave, Watson’s first release for new label partner Hyena Records

"I got up there and basically wrote ten songs in three days," remembers Watson. "At first I was adamant about not writing anything even remotely reminiscent to Johnny Cash as I figured I'd be instantly dismissed for trying to cop his vibe, but his presence was so strong up there that I decided why fight it, let the chips fall where they may and go with the feeling."

The chips seem to have fallen in Watson’s favor. While the Cash influence flows through the album, Cash’s presence is more like a guiding hand then a Watson pastiche. From the train chugging down the tracks guitar on the album’s title track to the direct lyrical reference in the album’s final cut, “Runaway Train,” you can feel Cash working through Watson.

With all of that said about Johnny Cash, do not discount Watson and his band’s (The Lonestars) pure talent on this album. Musically the band is tight with Don Pawlak on pedal steel and Don Raby on fiddle providing a haunting backdrop in which Watson gently lays his golden baritone voice. If the fiddle on “Tomorrow Never Comes” doesn’t give you a chill, then you don’t have hot blood coursing through you veins.

In addition to the music itself, lyrically, From the Cradle to the Grave exhibits some of Watson’s most mature songwriting. “All we really are are the memories that we’ve made and leave behind from the cradle to the grave,” from the title track, just scratch the surface. Watson’s never been one to shy away from controversial subject matter and tackles it head-on with the album’s first single about a man wanting revenge on his young son’s killer. (See Video Below) Watson also worked with Chuck Mead of BR549 and Chris Scruggs for the “karma’s a bitch” number “You Always Get What You Always Got.” If the one song is any indication, I would definitely love to see that songwriting group continue.

In stark contrast to another recent Watson release, Little Darlin Sessions, Vol. 1, an album Watson wasn’t exactly thrilled with, From the Cradle to the Grave is an absolute must addition to any fan of the artist. My only complaint is that at just over 26 minutes that album is entirely too short! If you’re new to Watson and his Lonestars, this too is a great place to start. You’ll get a good feel for Watson’s fine lyrics and solid band forcing you to dig into this underground country superstar’s back catalogue.

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