Dale Watson

From the Cradle to the Grave – 2007 (Hyena)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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The always prolific, occasionally profound Dale Watson imbues his latest collection of hook-song tragedies and twangy traditional sounds with atmospheric dabs of Mexican horns and a sense of southern folk righteousness.

Recorded primarily at actor Johnny Knoxville's cabin once used by Johnny Cash, the 10-song set features the troubadour's characteristic nods to Merle Haggard ("Hollywood Hillbilly") and Cash ("Justice for All"). This time around, Watson - at his vocal best here - also embraces Conway Twitty's romantic baritone ("It's Not Over Now"), Waylon Jennings' sense of moral authority ("Yellow Mama") and a bit of Roy Orbison's bolero-tempo'd dramatics ("It's Not Over Now"). In between the fatalistic confessionals ("Tomorrow Never Comes") and pleas for personal integrity ("Why Oh Why Live a Lie") are revealing glimpses of hard won wisdom ("You Always Got What You've Got") and karmic jingles ("Runaway Train") that tout Watson's inner wild child.

Although many of his songs lean toward the enigmatic - where is all this guilt and heartache coming from - the themes of personal angst, honor and redemption are what makes Watson's brand of country such a gratifying experience.