Modern day honky tonk master Dale Watson moved away from his signature sound on "The Sun Sessions," his 2011 debut for Red House Records. With "El Rancho Azul," he is back trolling familiar waters. From twangy barroom rockers to tender ballads and classic sounding tunes with booze-filled imagery, this album has a little bit of everything you expect.
The twangy piano boogie I Drink To Remember and the insanely catchy Thanks To Tequila both prove that Watson is still unrivaled when it comes to penning contemporary drinking songs that can easily stand toe-to-toe with classic country's finest. The best of the bunch is the swingin' I Lie When I Drink, which uses humor to temper heartache through clever lines like, "Oh I lie when I drink/And I drink a lot/Don't believe me when I've had a few/Oh I lie when I drink/And I drink a lot/I only drink when I'm missing you."
Although the album's quietest moment, the heartfelt Daughter's Wedding Song, is a little more mainstream than most Watson songs, the sincerity behind the lyrics elevates the tune above the typical ballads heard on contemporary country radio.
Long-time fans will be glad to see that a few live staples make their studio debuts on "El Rancho Azul." The instructional Quick Quick Slow Slow, has been helping the uninitiated do the two-step for years, while I Can't Be Satisfied, a highlight of the 2002 "Live In London...England!" album, finally gets the studio treatment it deserves. Also Where Do You Want It, a story song about fellow Texas troubadour Billy Joe Shaver's 2007 shooting incident outside of a bar, has long been a live favorite.
It is worth noting that this is the second studio release to be credited to Dale Watson and His Lonestars. Although Watson's backing band isn't showcased more than normal on this set, the stellar playing of Don Pawlak (pedal steel), Chris Crepps (upright bass), Mike Bernal (drums) and Danny Levin (piano and fiddle) more than justifies the new billing.