Aaron Watson is equal parts, neo-traditional and top 40 country, and the Amarillo, Texas mines some new territory on his seventh studio album. He helped write 11 of the 14 songs and performs covers as diverse as Waylon Jennings' "Tulsa" and John Mayer's "Heart of Life." He gives the former a rollicking spin, and the latter can't be mistaken for anything but a country song when coming out of Watson's pipes.
The rest is strong, yet predictable. It follows Watson's pattern of recording barn-burners and ballads along with hurtin' songs and sentimental tunes. There's "Breaker Breaker One Nine," which Watson co-wrote with Jerry Reed. It seems like the perfect follow-up to Watson's collaboration with Dale Watson on "Diesel Drivin' Daddy." "Wake Up And Smell The Coffee" is heavy on the fiddles. "Can't Be A Cowboy Forever" is a tender ballad that's less about riding rodeo and more about working out a relationship.
Watson gets a little slicker than usual on forgettable songs like "Love Makin' Song" and "Rollercoaster Ride." The best song, however, is the title track with lyrics like "God bless Angels and pray for outlaws to find a newfound love for their lost cause, she loved him despite all his flaws and he loved her because she wanted him to a better man."
Watson's collaboration with other artists benefits the album. He recorded "Barbed Wire Halo" on this album; it was the title track from a gospel album he released last year. The song is preceded by a recitation by Billy Joe Shaver, and it's about how a church deacon's life was fulfilled despite hard times early on.
"That's What I Like About A Country Song" takes the listener as far away from "Barbed Wire" as possible. It's a light-hearted song in which Watson shares the microphone with fellow Texans Jack Ingram, Roger Creager, Kevin Fowler and co-producer Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel.