Album Review: Dale Watson & His Lonestars — El Rancho Azul
Drinking songs make up a good-sized chunk of Watson’s oeuvre, and El Rancho Azul, his first official record with his touring band, the Lonestars, contains some of his best yet, from the Bakersfield-influenced album opener, “I Lie When I Drink” to “I Hate to Drink Alone,” in which Watson bellies up to the bar with a memory, ruefully singing “Every beer I’m drinking, dear/I’m drinking here with you/I think I’m drinking myself crazy/I’ll take you with me when I go.”
“I Drink to Remember,” with its clever hook and sharp arrangement—anchored by Don Pawlak’s pedal steel and Danny Levin on piano and fiddle—would likely be another in Merle Haggard’s collection of Number One singles had it been written and recorded 40 years ago.
Some of the most engaging moments on the record come when Watson steps down from the barstool. “Daughter’s Wedding Song” finds him displaying a tenderness he rarely shows. He channels Waylon Jennings with his booming baritone and the solid backbeat of “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and captures the giddy thrill of love on “We’re Gonna Get Married,” while the rockabilly tune “Give Me More Kisses” sounds like a holdover from last year’s Sun Sessions. Listeners are guided through the two-step on “Quick Quick Slow Slow,” and its companion song, “Slow Quick Quick,” tells a sweet love story in three quarter time.
“Smokey Old Bar” treads familiar, boozy subject matter, only far less deftly than the other songs on El Rancho Azul, but that’s the only shaky moment on an otherwise rock solid release. Crack open a cold Lone Star and dance along.
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