Dale Watson

Rife with character-heavy narratives and big-sky imagery, country music has always been a ideal soundtrack for driving. We’re reminded of that on Dale Watson’s second album of highway songs, following 1998’s The Truckin’ Sessions. With lots of fiddle and a clear love of the road, Austin’s inveterate Watson elevates these 14 tunes beyond their cheesy, one-note potential, making them feel hard-won and authentic. “Hero” opens with rain and presents the ever-cautious trucker as a tear-jerking martyr; it’s a stretch but the song plucks the heartstrings with a strong, compact refrain. The likeminded “Let This Trucker Go” is a message from a freshly departed soul to the woman who survived him, whereas “Truckin’ Man” is all corner-of-the-mouth growl, the goofy “Truckin’ Queen” tackles a cross-dressing driver and “Texas Boogie” caps the collection with a snap. Even the mostly instrumental “10-4” comes off better than on paper. Watson’s weighty voice is clarion-clear, and his longtime band sharp and diverse throughout. Nowhere near as gritty as some alt-country, yet free of the arena-rock earmarks of the mainstream stuff, Volume Two won’t convert anyone who doesn’t already like country, but it’s a pleasantly bumpy ride for those of us who do.
Fri., Dec. 4, 9 p.m., 2009
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