Dale Watson

Live in London – 2002 (Audium)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

Recorded live in London in 2000 by Texas honky tonker Dale Watson and originally released in Europe as a double CD, Audium's single disc is remastered from the original 24-track tapes, providing a half-dozen titles not present on the earlier issue. Particularly noticeable are the addition of "A Real Country Song" and "Nashville Rash," adding extra gravitas to the show's critique of mainstream country music.

Having been recorded two years ago, thiese tracks presents a snapshot of Watson before the death of his fianc-e, his subsequent depression and the musical exposition of his "Every Song I Write For You" CD. Recent interviews find Watson letting go of the stridency and anger that dominated songs like "Country My Ass" (as well as some of the stage patter), suggesting that explicit railing at the music industry may not be Watson's future. The 19 selections (nearly 70 minutes) include new titles, highlights from Watson's catalog, and cornerstone covers of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Wynn Stewart and Jimmie Rodgers (by way of Webb Pierce). Welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd, Watson and the band are in fine form as they move from Ray Price's jazzy steel guitar showcase, "Bright Lights and Blonde Haired Women" to the loping tempo of "Can't Be Satisfied" and two-step rhythms of "Turn Off the Jukebox" and "Break Your Own Heart."

The barbwire criticisms of contemporary country are certainly entertaining, and the homages to influences are heartfelt, but it's Watson's own twangy, Texas-bred songs that drive his point all the way home.