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Dale Watson

Under the Influence – 2016 (Red River)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Dale Watson

With "Under The Influence," Dale Watson pays homage to artists who have helped create his sound by covering songs that display his veneration for traditional country, western swing and early rock and roll. With the opening "Lonely Blue Boy," a 1960 rock and roll hit for Conway Twitty, Watson salutes not only Twitty, but also gives a nod to Elvis Presley (who had recorded an unissued version of the song in 1958). The rock influence is also evident on Little Richard's "Lucille," delivered here in the fashion of Waylon Jennings' 1983 rendition, as well as Lefty Frizzell's "You're Humbuggin' Me."

The arrangement of "Long Black Veil," another tune strongly associated with Frizzell, is deceptively bouncy considering the subject matter. The Bob Wills classic "That's What I Like About The South" is a more conventional take on western swing.

The Bakersfield sound is nicely represented with Buck Owens' "Made In Japan" and Merle Haggard's "Here In Frisco," both featuring strong guitar work from Watson on his Fender Telecaster. The strongest country ballad is Watson's take on the relatively obscure Doug Sahm composition "I Don't Want To Go Home."

In addition to Watson's hot guitar licks, the instrumentation is stellar throughout from his backup band the Lone Stars - Don Pawlak (pedal steel), Chris Crepps (upright bass) and Mike Bernal (drums) plus notable guest performances on piano from Earl Poole Ball and T. Jaron Bonta.

With "Under The Influence," Watson succeeds not only in honoring some of his musical influences, but continuing the mission he has been on for the past couple of decades to preserve and create traditional country music.