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Dale Watson
From The Cradle To The Grave
Hyena Records

Here it is folks, the album that could possibly be the last we hear from Dale Watson, the true country troubadour, for quite some time. The record has a lonesome sound that could easily be attributed to his graceful bowing out of the music scene for a while… a swansong of sorts. Filled with songs of longing and leaving and loss, From The Cradle To The Grave is the least honky-tonk of Watson's recordings, but probably the most deeply introspective.

Starting with the murder story of "Justice For All", the tone of the album is set definitively in a dark and brooding way. "It's Not Over Now" is a slow, sentimental country dirge that really establishes the new Dale Watson sound; dark ballads, with no quick, truck-driving twang, but a sad introspective honky tonk. "Time Without You" is another love song written in the spirit of the amazing Every Song I Write Is For You, a song with a deep yearning that lays claim to the heart immediately. The longing is accented nicely by some fine slow pedal steel and fiddle playing. "Hollywood Hillbilly" steps up the tempo just a bit, and features some great steel, but the closest we get to real barn-burning country honk is album closer "Runaway Train".

Sprinkled throughout the record are tracks that channel Johnny Cash in such a sincere way - without being derivative - that it seems the spirit of the man is still with us. This is no big surprise, as followers of Dale Watson have always known he draws tremendous inspiration from Johnny, as well as Johnny's music. To further enhance that bond is the fact that From The Cradle To The Grave was recorded in Johnny's old cabin in Tennessee. There's magic still in those walls, and songs like "From The Cradle To The Grave" and "Yellow Mama" could just as easily have appeared on a Cash record at some point. There is a familiarity to these song that reminds not only of the timelessness of Cash's music, but also of the impact those songs had on the world. Watson's voice has aged much like Johnny's did, attaining a rich mellowness that only comes from age and experience. "Tomorrow Never Comes" is a trailing dirge with a somber message that reminds the listener how easily this simple life could pass away, leaving us with much larger questions.

If fortune does not smile on us, and this is the last we hear from Watson, I suppose it would be enough… but like his mentor, I hope Dale continues to record music until the time when he is no longer able. His songwriting continues to improve and this batch of songs, especially when viewed in the light of being written in a 10-day span, really shows the amazing and heartfelt music of which Watson is capable. God bless the man.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Justice For All
2. It's Not Over Now
3. Time Without You
4. Hollywood Hillbilly
5. You Always Get What You Always Got
6. From The Cradle To The Grave
7. Why Oh Why Live A Lie
8. Yellow Mama
9. Tomorrow Never Comes
10. Runaway Train

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