Sign up for newsletter
From the Country Standard Time Archives

Watson proves hot inside

House of Blues, Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 1996

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - The night may have been rainy and cold this time of year on the outside.

But inside the House of Blues, honky tonker Dale Watson ripped it up for more than two hours.

That was the case despite a crowd of perhaps 50 people. The size certainly was no reflection on the capabilities of Watson, who has released two fine albums on Hightone.

Watson comes from the country perspectives of trucks, honky tonks and broken love affairs.

Watson, an Austin resident, wasn't afraid to showcase his influences either. He paid debts to Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Charlie Rich and Elvis ("Bossa Nova"). In fact, he paid a bit too much of one on Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," where Watson came off more like a carbon copy.

But as if to hit the nail on the head, he played "A Real Country Song" from his latest, "Blessed or Damned" and "Nashville Rash" from his debut, "Cheatin' Heart Attack." At one point, Watson himself tried to make it in Nashville, but a few songs cut for Curb never made it.

Both songs took a decidedly anti-mainstream view of country, not caring much for the cookie cutter fodder infiltrating the airwaves instead of the Joneses of the world. Yeah, Watson may drop names of the tried and true, but that's his kind of music.

Watson told a funny story of being on TNN a few nights ago with host John Schneider asking Watson what type of music he played. Watson acknowledged he was taken aback.

Based on what he played at the House of Blues and on his CDs, what could easily understand the answer Watson uttered, "country."

Boosting Watson throughout the night was his crack backing band, Jim Leslie on bass, Lee Potter on drums and Dave Biller on guitar.

None were flashy, but the rhythm section kept the songs flowing at a steady pace all night. And Biller cracked many many strong guitar leads, sometimes steely, but always taut and on target. There were not wasted notes. Watson was no slouch on guitar either (his instrument unlike that of his bandmates was saved from a fire in Phoenix in June that destroyed all of the band's equipment).

About the only negative was that Watson did not play enough from his most recent fine disc, "Blessed or Damned." Small complaint considering Watson played out for 140 minutes. He threw in a few new songs, including "Hair of the Dog," the character unconvincingly utters, "I swear I'll never drink again." Sure.

One thing you can just about count on for sure. Watson should be the panacea of keeping it hot - musically anyway - for a night. Maybe next time, there will even be a crowd.