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Dale Watson bears the standard

IOTA Club & Cafe, Arlington, Va., January 25, 2010

Reviewed by J. Thanki

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Dale Watson, long a standard bearer for traditional country music, also puts on one of the most entertaining - and lengthy - live shows you're likely to see. The 47-year old Texan and his four piece Lone Star Band were onstage for more than 2 hours, though he spent a fair amount of that time talking about, well, everything, often stopping mid-song to relate various anecdotes.

Over the course of the evening, the crowd learned that Watson once drank 14 shots of peppermint schnapps in under an hour and subsequently couldn't use mint toothpaste for over a year afterwards, that he's a fan of Johnny Knoxville's moonshine, and even got a quick tutorial in the art of the two-step.

Watson has an extensive library of songs at his disposal, and it seems like he played most of them. Heavily influenced by the Bakersfield sound, he covered Buck Owens and played a trio of Merle Haggard songs: Mama Tried, Here in Frisco and Silver Wings.

Of course, he played plenty of his own songs, ranging from Truck Stop in La Grange to Johnny Cash tribute song Runaway Train. A new song was even composed on the fly, inspired by the river of drinks audience members kept passing to the band: I Lie When I Drink. Don't look for it on the next album, but for a spur of the moment waltz in B-flat, the song wasn't half bad.

Watson's not one to bite his tongue on matters relating to country music and delivered a soliloquy about today's spoiled young pop-country artists before spitting out Nashville Rash to raucous cheers, and later led a slightly drunken sing-along on Country My Ass.

Though Watson was undoubtedly the star of the show, the hero of the night was bassist Chris Crepps, who was playing with Watson and the Lone Stars for the first time. Although he hadn't even practiced with the band and had no set list to follow, Crepps meshed perfectly with the group, and Watson was effusive in his praise. Also garnering praise from Watson was Mike Bernal, the first Hispanic Lone Star, or, as Watson called him, "(his) Mexican drummer."

Playing far past his cutoff time, it was after midnight when Watson finally called it quits, though he doubtlessly could have gone on longer. Equal parts country musician and standup comic, Watson was one fine performer, especially when backed by a band as talented as his Lone Stars. If he plays a dive near you, be sure to check it out. Just avoid the peppermint schnapps.