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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Watson loves these songs

House of Blues, Cambridge, Mass., April 12, 1997, second set

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - Texas honky tonker Dale Watson's new album "I Hate These Songs" is not out until June.

But the Austin resident certainly was not talking about what he probably would refer to as "real country music" as among the songs he hated in concert. No, he's into honky tonk and ballads in which the singer can really sing with conviction.

What you're not going to hear are songs tailor-made for today's country radio stations or what could be called country light.

Watson played his usual freewheeling brand of country during the 75-minute late set, yet another generous outting from Watson.

His star must be rising. Last September when he ventured into the House of Blues, only about 50 people showed. This time around, the place was reportedly packed for the 80-minute first set. Less so for the second, but still respectable numbers.

Watson particularly excells on truck driving songs, a genre making somewhat of a comeback. He led off the late set with "I'm a Truckin' Man" and unveiled a new song, "Yankee Doodle Jean, the Truck Driving Queen from Springfield, Ohio" in the encore. Both were keepers as was "Jack's Truck Stop & Cafe," an easy going song about life there on a Saturday night.

The blue collar ethic surfaces throughout Watson's songs. That's the life he has lived and knows. And he puts it across as something he obviously can relate to.

"You Got Pride" is a song how people can't be measured by the amount of money they have. The refrain about sums up Watson: "I love real country music/I love Texas/ and I love my mama/and it's going to be that way until my dying day."

Watson dispelled any expectations of going by the numbers. He readily and happily took requests, resulting in songs such as Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee" and "Mama Tried" being played back to back, Left Fritzzell's Long Black Veil" and Buck Owen's "Girl Made in Japan." He makes them come alive, not just trying to show off that he knows Merle or Buck. songs like some pretenders might.

Watson, suffering from an infection of a Texas-styled tatoo on the inside of his lower right arm, let his voice do the talking. It didn't matter fast or slow. The guy can sing with ease and conviction.

The infection did its toll on Watson when it came to his guitar playing. He appeared to play less forcefully than the last time around. Watson acknowledged afterwards it wasn't his best performance as a result.

But Watson's new trio of the Lone Stars proved they could more than take up the slack. The highlight was pedal steel player Rick Davis. He added the bite and depth to many songs. Stand-up bassist Preston Rumbaugh and drummer Brian Feltield proved to be a solid rhythm section as well with Rombeau occasionally providing back-up vocals.

What is even more impressive is that Rombeau and Feltield only have been with Watson for two weeks. Davis is the veteran, having joined Watson in December. Watson and his previous trio parted ways last year.

The Lone Stars are an aptly named backing band.Watson knows his Texas roots, puts it on display and leaves the crowd wanting to love these songs.