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Dale Watson

Truckin' Sessions Trilogy – 2014 (Red River)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Dale Watson

Completing a trilogy originally begun with the first "Truckin' Sessions" album in 1998, Dale Watson wraps up the series with "The Truckin' Sessions 3," a robust 14-song set that details the daily travels and travails of the modern road warrior. Watson's affinity for these unsung highway heroes is both admirable and authentic, sung from the perspective of those who tirelessly drive those big rigs day and night, often with little sleep, scant personal comforts and minimal roadside facilities. Yet, Watson manages to blend humor with humility, taking a non PC stance while detailing their saga with unabashed enthusiasm.

Stylistically, the music takes its cue from the classic sound of Bakersfield, a hearty blend of traditional country, rockabilly and honky tonk. Flush with solid, stalwart rhythms, the songs are sweetened with pedal steel guitar and driven with the frenzy of fiddles and other embellishment typical of that earlier era. Taking its template from vintage road songs like "Convoy" and "Six Days on the Road," Watson purveys his material with an air of authenticity, no surprise since his father used to be a long distance trucker who moonlighted as a budding country singer.

At the same time, Watson imbues his own indelible imprint, adding clever wordplay to enliven the proceedings. "Been a Long Truckin' Day," "Phillip at the Station" and "Suicide Sam" veer to the outer fringes of taste and tenacity, but the cutesy duet with Amber Digby on "We're Trucking Along" (Her: "It's a good thing you're cute." Him: "It's a good thing you're blind." Her: "It's a good thing you like to listen." Him: "You talk all the time") provides some further whimsy as well. And lest anyone doubt Watson's emotional engagement, the lament for a particular species of roadside denizens, as described in "Texas Armadillo," affirms his grasp on slyer sentimentality.

Watson's a traditional tunesmith in every sense, and his blue collar sensibilities get full reign here once again. An essential addition to today's country canon, "The Truckin' Sessions" move a revered road tradition forward.