Dale Watson

Call Me Lucky – 2019 (Ameripolitan/Compass)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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2018 was a transitional year for Dale Watson. For decades, Watson has been both a pillar of the Austin music scene and one of Texas's most visible and passionate musical ambassadors. Given his Lone Star State roots, it was surprising when Watson recently sold two of his Texas bars and decided to split time between Texas and Tennessee after buying a home and a bar in Memphis.

This change of scenery is reflected in the songs on "Call Me Lucky," which finds Watson augmenting the classic country stylings of his always fantastic band, The Lone Stars, with arrangements and instrumentation associated with his newly-adopted home base.

The most "Memphis" moments here are the songs featuring horn sections. Both the twangy "Inside View" and the bluesy "Who Needs This Man" have some great horn accents that elevate the songs above their basic country structure, but the real highlight is "Tupelo Mississippi & A '57 Fairlane." This song, which features saxophone, trombone and trumpet, along with some classic country/rock piano, feels like it was written specifically to showcase the horns. This shuffling tune is equal parts rock, blues and country - resulting in one of the most unique and exciting tracks in Watson's catalog.

Speaking of Memphis, 11 of the 12 tracks were recorded at the historic Sam C. Phillips Recording Studio, so it shouldn't be surprising that Watson channeled a few of his local musical heroes like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley to create a collection with a bit more of a rockabilly feel than usual.

It's not hard to imagine those legends bopping through upright bass-driven tunes like "You Weren't Supposed To Feel This Good" or "Run Away" - songs that could've easily charted in those days when there was little stylistic separation between country and early rock and roll.

Another standout, "The Dumb Song," sounds like Cash's amazing Sun Records recordings and features W.S. "Fluke" Holland, a drummer for both Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. When Holland yells out "YES!!" as the song concludes, you know Watson was on point with his take on the classic rockabilly sound.

Watson's collaboration with Celine Lee on "Johnny And June" is a modern version of the classic country male/female duet and provides for one of the lovelier moments. This song also features Mickey Raphael's distinctive harmonica. Raphael, a longtime member of Willie Nelson's supporting band, adds some nice flavor throughout the album.

On the title track, Watson sings about being lucky. The real lucky ones are the music fans who get to enjoy "Call Me Lucky," yet another addition to Watson's consistently-good catalog.