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Aaron Watson

Vaquero – 2017 (Big Label)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Aaron Watson

Independent singer/songwriter Aaron Watson's "Vaquero" is an ambitious 16-song mix of Texas country and mainstream Nashville with mostly good results. The strongest tracks are those that embrace the Tex Mex style of the title track, which imparts some sound advice delivered by an "old Mexican cowboy" the singer meets in a bar ("He said don't leave your beer in the hot Texas Sun/ Don't argue with a woman while she's holding a gun" and "don't live your life like a sad country song/ A fool on a stool still a fool right or wrong").

One of the more impressive cuts is the instrumental "Mariano's Dream" that leads into the ballad "Clear Isabel" in which a Mexican lawman seeks to take his young daughter to safety ("South Texas looks like heaven when you're down here in this living hell/So come on let's cross that Rio, the coast is clear Isabel").

Other highlights are a pair of ballads that recall the mainstream country of the '90s such as the sweetly sentimental "Diamonds and Daughters" ("And I'll be there for you every step of the way/From your very first breath until my dying day") and the inspirational "The Arrow" ("Good things come to those who pray so don't you chalk it up to chance/And never let your arrow be led by arrogance").

The uptempo "They Don't Make Em Like They Used To" succeeds in being nostalgic ("Well Granny's in the kitchen smell of fried chicken frying/She's cooking in her apron singing along with Patsy Cline") while also offering social commentary on contemporary issues ("Meanwhile politicians preach while some preachers politic/What we need is lots of love, yeah lots of love might do the trick").

Produced by Marshall Altman some tracks such as "These Old Boots Have Roots" and "Outta Style" suffer a bit from overproduction, though the instrumentation is stellar throughout with notable contributions from Glen Duncan (fiddle), Rob McNelly (guitar) and Russ Pahl (steel guitar). With Watson's solid compositions and strong performances "Vaquero" is a mostly satisfying effort.