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Aaron Watson

The Honky Tonk Kid – 2004 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Aaron Watson

Aaron Watson's third full-length is an impressively confident album of Texas country, honky-tonk and swing. The 13 originals offer up both bona-fide twang (spurred along by producer Ray Benson) and more polished radio-ready crossover-pop. Waton's praise of his roots can seem a might self-conscious, but his joy as a country singer creates the sort of infectious likeability upon which George Strait's built a career.

Watson's songs include weepers ("What She Don't Know"), upbeat two-steppers ("If You're Not in Love"), and Western Swing ("Honky Tonkin' Around Texas"). He edges into pop with rockers like "Reckless," and rekindles the country-pop balladry of early Garth Brooks and Clint Black with "Mackenzie Park." It's a delicate balance, crossing over to a broader palette without losing one's roots, and Watson does so successfully.

Willie Nelson trades verses on the title tale of fading glory, and Dale Watson adds fuel to the trucking canon with "Diesel Driving Daddy." Amidst this Texas star-power, Aaron Watson remains the focal point, singing his finely crafted songs with enthusiasm and spirited tradition. (aaronwatson.com)